President, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research,
Three years ago, when cardiologist Mark Fishman was charged with reinventing drug development for Novartis, he bet on design. Meeting with the architectural firm that would build the company's $285 million laboratories, he talked about how work environments play a powerful role in the "sociology of science." Fishman championed what was initially an unpopular idea of creating denser areas where researchers could work "cheek by jowl around the lab bench." It's not just about efficiency. Fishman believes researchers thrive in crowded conditions because they interact more. "Mark clearly understood the power of design to affect performance and productivity," says architect Scott Simpson. That power means, in some cases, a sharply reduced timeline for preliminary clinical trials. — Christine Canabou
Richard M. Daley
The city once synonymous with smokestacks may soon be better known for its greenswards, thanks to Chicago's Richard M. Daley, the 16-year mayor. "Most people look at cities as harsh, cold, concrete, stark, naked, steel, dirt," says Daley. "It doesn't have to be that way." After a trip to Germany, where he saw a sea of garden roofs — which absorb rain, keep buildings cool, and filter the air — Daley decided in 2000 to convert City Hall into one of the first green-topped public buildings in the United States. Today, the city has 120 rooftop gardens under construction.
In 2004, Daley mandated that all new public and publicly supported buildings be green-topped. And next year, if the mayor has his way, Chicago will purchase 20% of its energy from renewable sources. Despite his share of political woes, Daley has undoubtedly made his mark on the urban jungle. — Danielle Sacks
Founder and CEO, Acumen Fund,
New York, New York
Jacqueline Novogratz, a banker turned social capitalist, is redesigning the way critical goods and services are sold to the poorest of the poor. Since its launch four years ago, Acumen, a nonprofit venture-capital fund, has invested $3.67 million in 14 innovative organizations.
Acumen puts design at the forefront of its investing strategy. It helped A to Z Textile Mills, an African company, develop a long- lasting antimalarial bed net. Then, Novogratz's team wondered if there was a way to make the nets more affordable and desirable, and dreamed up nets that hang in windows and doorways — an attractive solution that uses less material. This year, Acumen plans to invest another $5 million in organizations, and it is collaborating with Ideo CEO Tim Brown to create an Acumen Design Council. The goal is to wield design as a catalyst for social change. — DS
Founder, Zaha Hadid Architects,
Last spring, Baghdad-born Brit Zaha Hadid became the first woman to win the vaunted Pritzker Architecture Prize, the industry's highest honor. Never heard of her? There's a reason. Hadid doesn't swim in the mainstream. Her uncompromising attitude and edgy designs have shocked and even alienated clients. Her first landmark contract, an opera house in Cardiff, Wales, was yanked in 1994 after locals rebelled against the glass-and-concrete concept. Today, the failed design appears regularly on "Greatest Buildings Never Built" lists. Over the next few years, only a handful of jobs came her way, though her premier U.S. building, Cincinnati's Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, opened in 2003 to rave reviews. Then came the Pritzker. Now she has rocketed to prominence, winning new work from Spain to Oklahoma to Taiwan. "Zaha Hadid has built a career on defying convention," says Karen Stein, a Pritzker juror. "But she strikes a chord with people all around the world." — Lucas Conley
Chung Kook Hyun
Senior VP and director of design,
Samsung Electronics, Seoul, Korea
For much of its 36 years, Samsung was known for stamping out boxy, copycat designs. But a decade ago, one of the company's own executives began propelling Samsung into the high-end electronics market. Chung Kook Hyun is the man behind the company's transformation from also-ran to industry darling. During his tenure, Hyun has launched a Samsung design school, created a "Design Bank" filled with ready-to-ship concepts, and built an army of nearly 500 industrial-design wizards. In the States, the company's high-end televisions have trounced competitors like Sony and Panasonic. "What is Hyun's impact? Incredible," exclaims Kristina Goodrich, executive director of the Industrial Designers Society of America. "In the consumer- electronics industry, there are very few differentiators; the manufacturers all have the same technology." But only one has Hyun. — LC
Human World Wide, Los Angeles
Shhh! Gareth Williams is trying to tell you something. Just don't expect him to come right out and say it. As one of the world's leading sound designers, Williams has made his name using arresting, abstract audio to convey messages for award-winning commercials. Call him a sorcerer of sound. The media that Williams works in, from commercials and short films to video games and remix albums, are as varied as the sources he draws from. For an Adidas rugby ad, Williams interlaced the cacophony of grunting pigs and roaring lions with visuals of warring rugby players. Ad Age recognized the spot with two awards in 2000. "When you make sounds more abstract, people have to use their imaginations," he says. "That's when you engage them." — LC
Editor and designer, McSweeney's Quarterly,
San Francisco, California
People know Dave Eggers as the author of the memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and as the editor of McSweeney's Quarterly. But Eggers, a self-described "hack designer," is also the creator of the graphic stunts that grace his work. The table of contents of McSweeney's issue five, for example, includes charts depicting each story's degree of difficulty.
Unlike most authors, Eggers writes with the desktop publishing software QuarkXPress so he can imagine how the words will look on the page. That illustrates his boundary-breaking approach: While his work is laden with hip, modern irony, his interlaced roles as wordsmith and designer make him a craftsman in the traditional sense — a contemporary version of the poet and artist William Blake. The result is a body of work — at once complex and humane — that's all the more compelling. — JM
Senior industrial designer,
Sony Ericsson, Lund, Sweden
Designing a product that will live up to the breathless hype of high-speed mobile-phone networks isn't an easy call. But that's exactly what Jeanna Kimbre was charged with when she landed the assignment to create Sony Ericsson's Z1010, the joint venture's first handset for "3G," or third-generation, mobile networks. Better attempts have followed — the components have shrunk and designers have had more time to dwell on 3G. But blazing the trail, as Kimbre did with the elegant Z1010 — which won the 2003 International 3D Award for industrial design — is by far the toughest part of any big-time creative effort.
Kimbre moves effortlessly from one product category to another, epitomizing design's boundary-breaking impulse. She recently took a yearlong leave in Australia to prototype handbags and furniture for Float Design. That work with different materials, colors, and textures will inevitably influence the next round of Sony Ericsson handsets. — JM
Los Angeles, California
Noreen Morioka believes that the creative directors at companies like ABC and Nickelodeon are guardians of their brands. Getting to know them personally helps her crack their brands' DNA. So while her partner, Sean Adams, executes most of the firm's graphic-design work for organizations including Oxygen and the Sundance Film Festival, Morioka interprets her clients' sometimes vaguely articulated goals. When Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. channel was refining its logo, executive creative director Brown Johnson included "love" as one of the hazy brand attributes she wanted the channel to convey. Through close observation, Morioka learned that for Johnson, love meant "time and attention." That phrase animated Nick Jr.'s logo featuring parent-and-child animals. The message is for the masses, but for Morioka, it starts with one — the keeper of the brand. — JM
Margareta van den Bosch
Head of design, H&M,
Under Margareta van den Bosch's skillful eye, H&M translates cutting-edge, high-end fashions into affordable, accessible items for the masses. That's a model that has propelled the 58-year-old company to an enviable winning streak. Last year, sales rose 11%, while profits soared by 15%. H&M plans to open 150 new stores by the end of this year, bringing the total to about 1,200 worldwide. What's H&M's secret? Van den Bosch points to a triangle. "At the top are things that sell and change the fastest, and at the bottom are items we always keep in stock," she says. One top-of-the-triangle item that won glowing reviews from fashionistas worldwide came as a result of H&M's partnership last fall with couture designer Karl Lagerfeld. The one-shot clothing line was so popular that several weeks' worth of inventory sold out in a few hours — just one of the ways that design powers profits. But for van den Bosch, the Lagerfeld episode was all in a day's work: "The line happened just like everything else around here." — Ryan Underwood
Cofounder, the Doblin Group,
Larry Keeley doesn't do design — at least not the way most of us define it. Rather, he creates internal design processes that foster successful innovation. That's good, because according to his statistics, innovations fail 96% of the time. When Keeley does his job right (for clients including Citigroup, McDonald's, and Pfizer), the success rate climbs to somewhere between 35% and 70%. "We offer a way to stop coming up with hundreds of bad ideas and instead come up with one great design," he says.
In his mind, tapping a lucrative new market should not be the lucky result of some needle-in-the-haystack scramble. It should come as the end result of a purposeful, companywide push for innovation. — RU
Founder of MakeTools Inc., senior lecturer of design, Ohio State University,
Twenty-five years ago, the design powerhouse now known as Fitch (then Richards & Smith) tried an experiment. It hired Liz Sanders, an academic with a master's in anthropology, a PhD in psychology, and zero design experience. But the field was starting to pay closer attention to people as opposed to cold market dynamics; somehow, the hire felt right. In time, Sanders's background in understanding environmental dynamics (anthropology) and individual needs (psychology) played an ever- increasing role. She helped pioneer many of the ethnographic investigative methods — such as photographing how customers interact with a company's products — that are now a standard first step in any design initiative. Now she's facing her toughest challenge: to help design hospitals that make patients, not doctors and administrators, the top priority. — RU
Director, the Institute of Design, Illinois
Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois
Patrick Whitney is creating a new kind of practitioner: business-savvy designers who draw not the prettiest lines but the most powerful conclusions about how companies can focus on the consumer. For more than 20 years, Whitney has been a steady voice for business; his graduates wear titles such as Motorola's director of marketing in Korea. "He's shifting the conversation from design as form-giving to design as strategy," says David Kelley, the Ideo founder who is establishing Stanford's new design school. "He sees that the way designers think has great relevance to business strategy." And like any serious change maker, Whitney isn't proprietary about his approach. He's collaborating with like- minded champions and open-sourcing ideas to the handful of other schools around the world that are taking design in a new direction. — Christine Canabou
How do you create the right climate for success? That's the challenge facing Matthias Schuler. He works with the world's most influential architects to create buildings that give maximum "human comfort" for minimal use of energy and materials. Schuler is trying to give cubicle dwellers more access to daylight and fresh air, and he's also aiming for a more sustainable future. And he's shaking up the way buildings get built by applying considerations of climate and sustainability to the earliest design stages with his collaborators, including Frank Gehry. That could mean, for example, aligning a building with the sun's path and prevailing wind patterns, as was done with Bonn's Deutsche Post Tower. Says Toshiko Mori, the New York architect: "His work may affect things that are hard to see and admire, but his frameworks have a strong effect on the design of spaces around human activities." — CC
Author and cofounder, the Biomimicry Guild,
In 1997, when Janine Benyus published her sixth book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, she wasn't aiming to become a new source of inspiration for designers. "I was just writing another book," she says. But Biomimicry was an eye-opener, for it showed that the natural world is filled with elegant examples of sustainable designs that might well be applied to the industrial world. After the book's debut, the phone began to ring, with people like the urban visionary Jane Jacobs on the line. Ever since, Benyus has been a conduit between scientists and designers. The Biomimicry Guild, the consulting practice she founded, helps organizations such as NASA and Nike adapt natural models for building business strategies. A self-described biologist at the design table, Benyus is a natural game changer. — CC
A version of this article appeared in the June 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.