Fast Company recently profiled Denis Weil, McDonald’s VP of concept and design. Denis has been the driving force behind a broad number of initiatives at McDonald’s to go beyond “primary colors and fiberglass booths.” The real take-away of the article, however, is the insight that design solutions must mesh into the operational aspects of the business. According to Weil, “We don’t design in a vacuum here. If an idea doesn’t come alive in the restaurant, it doesn’t work.” That’s a key success factor that is often overlooked in design projects.

This Aussie McDonald’s is emblematic of the global restaurant chain’s new design direction. (Source: Fast Company)
This sentiment is echoed by Peter Lawrence, Chairman & Founder of the Corporate Design Foundation. In a recent interview, again at Fast Company, he talks about the merging of these sensibilities (business & design) through an annual student collaboration between MIT and RISD. In interviewing students who participated in the program, it took students half a semester to learn that “the business students weren’t all a bunch of money grubbing creeps and that designers weren’t all total flakes.” This situation isn’t unique to the educational sphere – it’s just as pervasive within many corporations.

Overcoming it, however, is critical to bringing innovation to market. Only by developing products that achieve business goals as well as user goals can companies be successful. This is often best done at the start of a project and is one of the driving factors behind multidisciplinary teams – one that put designers, researchers, marketing, engineering and product managers on equal footing. By coming together and understanding the problem at hand from multiple perspectives, ideas become stronger and more grounded in reality.

Fast Company – Making Over McDonald’s

Fast Company – Peter Lawrence on Bringing Design to the Business World