What Difference Can Design Make?

All the difference in the world, I think. I'm a big fan of Virginia Postrel's ideas that aesthetics will be a major source of competitive advantage in the future. This article from Fast Company is a discussion with some leaders in the

Roger Martin, dean of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, says as much in a recent essay, when he writes that design "has emerged as a new competitive weapon and key driver of innovation. Leveraging the power of design across all aspects of a business can establish and sustain an organization's unique competitive advantage."

So who are the people who demonstrate design's power and promise? You're about to meet them. We've assembled a first-of-its-kind report on 20 masters of design: the high-impact innovators and creators who reveal the scope and dynamism of design. They define what design means today.

In putting together this series of profiles, we followed a key design principle: collaboration. Recognizing that a designer's true power comes through working with many partners, we sought out the help of many design pros–11, to be exact. These mentors to the masters–who hold top posts at universities, cultural institutions, and companies–scouted out the tops in the field for this inaugural package. (See "A Jury of Their Peers," below.) We asked them to look beyond the legends–grand masters like Frank Gehry, Philippe Starck, and Michael Graves–and point us to fresh heroes and heroines who are designing new ways of working, competing, learning, leading, and innovating.

I'll even go out on a limb and say that someday, the Chief Aesthetics Officer will be as important as any other high level executive.