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Robert Bau: Design Equals Business Value

Meet Robert Bau, a man of many tasks and a clear goal: to raise awareness of why Design Management is such a decisive aspect of business value. Robert teaches at Berghs School of Communication.

Maj 6, 2011


Robert Bau was raised in the US, has lived many years in Sweden, and now commutes between Stockholm and London where he resides in bucolic surroundings just outside of town. For several years Bau worked as an in-house consultant and project manager, but in 2005 he became an independent strategist by launching his company Mind Your Table Manners. Today, in addition to working 25% for Ergonomidesign, Sweden’s leading ergonomic design agency. Bau spends his time consulting, coaching, lecturing and writing for a broad range of clients. He is a senior branding-, innovation and design strategist, a business coach for creative agencies, and a mentor to creative entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial creatives. Since 2006 he also teaches at Berghs, an assignment particularly close to his heart: ”I teach too at Hyper Island, Konstfack, Södertörn College, The Business & Design Lab in Gothenburg, The Design College in Umeå, and at conferences all over Europe, but my heart beats especially for Berghs.”

”My calling is to be a kind of Ambassador of Design, and I think of it as a bit like being a language teacher. My courses attract business developers, architects and talented people of all stripes who know how to speak but now wish to really master the language. The courses should result in smart design, but for me the process itself is even more important. Actually, the very word ’design’ tends to send out misleading signals, since it’s not primarily a matter of just creating a pretty surface or fancy function. In my mind design is about providing strategic assistance to help companies cut costs, become more efficient, and increase productivity through employing intelligent design, designers and design thinking. It’s about processes that are well thought through, not about making fetching sketches. Design is pure business value, plain and simple.”

Design Management is the name of a ten-day course spaced over 10-12 weeks at Berghs School of Communication in Stockholm, which includes lectures, workshops, shorter assignments and longer projects, plus guest lecturers from the industry. The course has a three-pronged focus:

• Branding, meaning how to help companies build their brands through a strategic application of design, designers and design thinking, and by overall stressing the connection between brand and design.
• Innovation, meaning how smart design can contribute to the branding process, and how strategic innovation can assist companies in numerous ways.
• Management, meaning a strategy to streamline functions, cut costs and increase productivity by using design, designers and design thinking. What is the connection between design and productivity? What is the unique contribution of design to increased efficiency and sustainability?

”My task is to get the students to take the next , best step in developing their own professional ventures, and I find it incredibly rewarding to help them in this regard. And I know that by thus turning the students too into new Ambassadors of Design, I help strengthen the industry. For myself, teaching is a great opportunity to structure my own thoughts and to test them on others. My course becomes a dynamic feedback loop with colleagues from many different fields, and this also helps me to become a better consultant. During this past spring semester I have seen all of Berghs explore the issue of sustainability, which was the theme for the school’s Final Exhibition. The three great sustainability aspects within design right now are: Eco-Iconic, Eco-Embedded and Eco-Boosters,” adds Robert Bau just as the photographer arrives to take his picture for this article. As he hurries off we’ve learned for sure that design equals business value, it’s as simple as that!

The text is an extract from Berghs Print No2. The print is written in Swedish. If you want to print sent to you, send us an email with your postal address to