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For a revolution, you need creative power

Author: Martin Groschwald
IAA - Martin Groschwald

It makes innovation tangible and useful, and is much more than simply styling: In the new season of the IAA MOBILITY Visionary Club, design is playing the lead role. Martin Groschwald, CEO of Konzepthaus, has co-designed this season. He says: The mobility sector needs to finally transfer more responsibility to designers. An interview. 

What role does design play for the mobility of the future? 

The term design stands for two things: For design as an overall concept, and for styling. Both are extremely important for the mobility of the future. Users need to be able to understand and use vehicles, apps, and everything connected with mobility as easily as possible. That is critical. And for good usability, we need good design. The esthetic aspect also needs to be considered: We all like to use the things that appeal to us.  

Is design today still reduced too much to esthetics? 

That still plays a major role. And in many companies, the esthetics are laid over the product like a cover, in the final stages. By contrast, in companies led by designers you notice that design is used to drive the whole brand forward. Implementing that is a very conscious decision, and it is primarily a decision for the user. Working in a truly design-oriented way means concentrating on the user. 

So does the road to the future need to be design-driven? 

Yes, and for precisely this very important reason: A good designer always puts the benefit for the user at the center. How easy can I make life for my user? That is the fundamental question, and not primarily the question as to profitability. And if we are dealing with the future of mobility, the question that really counts is: Does it really have a benefit, does it help us to function better, as people and as a society? That is the utopia we are seeking to achieve. In addition, design remains intuitive - that is also important, particularly in a world driven by data. Data and artificial intelligence are ideal for developing something further, but we won’t bring about a revolution that way. For that, you need creative power. 

The fourth season of the IAA MOBILITY Visionary Club is taking this creative power, design, as its focus. You have definitively shaped this season. What was important to you in that?  

We want to show what design can do for the overall business, going far beyond just styling. Design is one of the few departments in a company that has points of contact with all the others. 

What should viewers take away from the new season? 

They should see design as an essential business unit. One that not only makes things beautiful, but can help to develop a better product overall and to tell a story about that product. In addition, we want to develop an expectation of design.  It does not need to have Board member representation - and nor will it, in all cases.  But it should be included as a decision-making authority, and should position itself accordingly. However, for that to happen design also needs to step up and take on more business responsibility. 

And what lies in store for the viewers? 

Amongst other things, Thomas Ingenlath will share his viewpoint, as a designer and CEO at Polestar. Then we will also be looking at, for instance, why CEOs and design managers sometimes don’t see eye to eye. Or the question of what is actually happening right now in design, i.e., trends such as interiors or HMI, and what is important to well-known designers, what they are aiming for and what they need for that. 

You mention ‘need’: Do we also need different training for designers in future? 

Absolutely. The basic problem is that there is actually no classic design training. We have a fine arts training. And fine art is not commercial, unlike design. And then CPD within companies can be a stumbling-block. If I want to see a greater number of designers in key positions, I also need to train them better, whether via an MBA or internally.

Thinking about the future, what are you looking forward to? 

Experiencing a design-driven revolution in mobility. It will happen, sometime in the next ten to 15 years, and I believe that when we look back in 25 years’ time, we will be surprised at how we were mobile today (laughs).