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How Stephen Gates’ Rant Shook Me, Shaped FUSE 2019

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Will We Seize the Moment? Or Waste It?

When the voluble, never shy, Stephen Gates, Head of Design Transformation at Invision, opened his talk at AIGA’s LeadCon in August by saying that “Design has never had a greater opportunity to influence business  - - I think he then added  “since the industrial revolution!!!” ….”but that WE ARE WASTING THE OPPORTUNITY!”  I started clapping. It was an intimate group of 100 or so. No one else clapped. Stephen, who I’d never met, said thank you with a nod, and kept rolling. We’ve all had 45 degree turning points in our lives. Hard turns that are worth the sense of dislocation. That was one for me. When Gates threw down the gauntlet, I got radicalized. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a vocal advocate for design. But in Stephen’s explicit challenge, something came together, with a thud in my heart, and more importantly, a high-pitched frequency jolt to the collective nervous system of our profession.

We have to address this issue. Will we waste the opportunity? And not as designers or marketers, but as leaders. Will we waste the opportunity we have to lead a new level of impact, “a new unity” between creative and business?

Stephen Gates rant shaped this year’s FUSE.  (We’ll be hearing more from him and many of the other speakers here ahead of the conference.) We’ve responded by assembling diverse leaders from brands and institutions that seriously invest in the design of their brands and enterprises. They will be sharing their advocacy, their insights, where the levers of influence and change exist, what they’ve learned in the conversations in the C-suite and the other centers of power.  They will make their challenges visible and help us build practical wisdom and actionable strategies that address:

  • Where is the fusion between brand, design and the business working?
  • How does it work?  What are the key issues?
  • What do the results (financial, social, the IMPACTS) of the new unity look like?

The prescient Nathan Shedroff, who started the first MBA programs located in a design school, CCA, said in his LinkedIn course on integrating business & design that designers, really all creatives, need to be able answer the question “why?” - and not just share their source of inspiration.

When it comes to the potential for a powerful new powerful unity between Brand, Design and The Business, how they’re being successfully integrated, and what conversations are required, FUSE 2019 intends to answer not just why, but how -- through real life experiences of people who are doing that work.

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