The Questions | Charles Jones, FIDSA | Newell Rubbermaid

Newell Rubbermaid Inc.,an S&P 500 company, recently hired Charles Jones, FIDSA as its chief design and research & development officer. Newell Rubbermaid is a global marketer of consumer and commercial products with 2012 sales of approximately $5.9 billion and a strong portfolio of leading brands, including Rubbermaid®, Sharpie®, Graco®, Calphalon®, Irwin®, Lenox®, Levolor®, Paper Mate®, Dymo®, Waterman®, Parker®, Goody®, Rubbermaid Commercial Products® and Aprica®. Newell Rubbermaid’s brands are trusted in more than 90 percent of U.S. homes and are sold in more than 100 countries around the globe.

We talked with Jones about what he will be doing in his new job and some of the challenges facing the design field.

Talk about Newell Rubbermaid and the work you are currently doing. Are there any particular projects that you are excited about or proud of?

My primary work at Newell Rubbermaid is really focused in three key areas: building a global design capability, driving our innovation efforts to the next level and insuring we build an engineering community with new skills and focus on creating a more robust ‘front end’ for our product development process.  I am especially excited about our corporate strategy called the Growth Game Plan. It gives every Newell Rubbermaid employee a role relative to growing our brands, driving innovation and also providing a context for building our design eco-system over the next several years.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the design field in the next five years?

I feel the biggest challenge for design is how well it chooses to define itself.  We are at a watershed moment in our profession where the various factions of ‘design’ – industrial, graphic, interior, interaction, etc. need to come together to chart a new path for ‘Big D design’.  If I look five years into the future, I would like to see all elements of design come together to own user experience in a more tangible way, as an example.  Failure to do this will only mean that ALL design professions will continue to be marginalized moving forward.  We need to get ‘Design’ moving in one direction and then focus on how this meshes with business and technology to chart a new future for the field.

What do you see as the next big thing(s) in design and innovation?

Technical enablers such as face time, telepresence, file sharing, etc. will redefine how we do what we do. These tools will shrink time and distance and bring cultures together in a more robust way to insure we are developing products and services for a global marketplace.

How can IDSA better assist companies like yours and help them achieve even greater success?

I would like to see IDSA become more of an integrator across other professional design associations such as AGIA, Design Management Institute, etc. Someone needs to be first in making this happen, and I would love for it to be IDSA. Beyond that, I would like to see standards tightened around what it is to be a professional designer. I recognize that this is controversial, but in the world of business standards matter. It is time for the profession to embrace this concept and evolve into a more widely acknowledged (outside of the design profession) set of standards.

Why did you join the Patrons Program?

It is important for Newell Rubbermaid to join all of the other corporations who support IDSA Patrons and begin to earn our reputation as a supporter of world class design and demonstrate our commitment to IDSA and its good work.

Why do you feel it's important to support the design profession?

I have been incredibly fortunate in my career as a design professional, and have been affiliated with IDSA since my early in my design education at Purdue University. People like Tom David, Dave Tompkins, FIDSA, Carroll Gantz, FIDSA, Deane Richardson, FIDSA and Ed Zagorski, FIDSA were leaders I looked up to, and they gave their time and their talent to make the profession better for the current generation.  My sincere hope is that between Newell Rubbermaid and myself we can support the design profession to a similar level – that is what we are going to try to do!