You will not find photos of products in the book. In fact, “Design-Driven Innovation” is everything but a book on the form of products. Rather, it is about meanings and management.
I was wondering however how to introduce the reader to some of the examples and cases which are less known to the mainstream business press, especially those of the Italian manufacturers. I therefore asked a young architect-artist, Daniele Barillari, to help me visualize some of the proposals—focusing, of course, on their meanings rather than their forms. This editorial approach is, in itself, a radical innovation of meanings. Indeed, this book is the first-ever design book without a single photo. And, indeed, I came across Daniele by pursuing the same design-driven process I describe in the book: through interpreters and mediators.
The result was so fascinating that we decided to provide readers with a colored version of the illustrations on this website. You are free to download them. We only ask you to keep reference to the book and to the illustrator in case you use them or diffuse them.
Below you will find the illustration according to each chapter they refer to, together with their captions. An important note: The illustrations depict only a small fraction of the cases discussed in the book. As you can see in the table provided in the book section, the variety of data and analyses in the book is so broad as to show that design-driven innovation is a suitable strategy for every firm, whether large or small, and whether it offers products or services, addresses consumer or business markets, and makes durable or fast-moving goods.
Letter to the Reader
A marketing manager for Apple described its market research as consisting of “Steve
looking in the mirror every morning and asking himself what he wanted.” That is the
mirror of an executive’s personal culture. Culture is one of the most precious gifts of
humanity. Everyone has it. You should be not afraid of that mirror but, rather, leverage it,
and see there things that others do not.
1. Design-Driven Innovation
With Metamorfosi, Artemide had completely overturned the reason why people would buy
a lamp. Not another beautiful lamp, but a light that makes you feel better. It had radically
changed its meaning.
2. Design and Meanings
Every product has a meaning. Yet many companies do not care about how to innovate
meanings. They strive to understand how people currently give meaning to things—only
to discover that this meaning has been suggested by an innovation designed by a competitor.
3. Radical Pushes
Innovation of meanings, like innovation of technologies, may also be radical. And radical
innovation of meanings is rarely pulled by users but is instead proposed by firms.
4. Technology Epiphanies
Radical innovation of technologies and radical innovation of meanings are closely entangled.
Every technology embeds many meanings, some of which are potentially disruptive,
although they are not visible at first.
5. The Value and the Challenges
It was a “car in sneakers.” You buy sneakers not because they are cheaper, but because
you want them.
6. The Interpreters
Mondrian and the scientists at the corporation were pursuing the same type of activity:
exploring new possibilities, recombining others’ findings, experimenting, identifying
promising results, sharing them with others, exploiting their discoveries. In other words:
The collective of Memphis was engaged in challenging, radical research. They provide
one of the most interesting examples of how basic research on product meanings moves
Many people think that Kettle 9093 was the result of a sparkle of creativity. Perhaps, one
morning, the image of a kettle with a whistling bird popped into Michael Graves’s mind.
No speculation could be further from reality. Kettle 9093 is instead the result of years of
research led by Alessi.
Interpreters have a double nature: they not only conduct research on how people give
meaning to things; they also have seductive power, as they influence the context of people’s
10. The Design-Driven Lab
The assets that back design-driven innovation are embedded not in tools but in relationships
among people. Their tacit nature makes them hardly imitable. Once you have
developed a distinctive relational asset, competitors can hardly scratch your competitive
These executives immerse themselves where mainstream competitors do not search.
They purposely explore unexplored areas. Books on creativity love to talk about “thinking
outside of the box.” These executives, rather, immerse themselves “outside of the