Last week, our industrial design team traveled to Essen, Germany to receive one of the greatest honors in the international design community: the Red Dot award. It would be a great honor to receive one award. Instead, Red Dot awarded us with four. We received awards for Cisco Spark Room Kit, Cisco Spark Room Kit Plus (both for the camera and codec) and the prestigious “Best of the Best” award for Cisco Spark Board.

I’m humbled that Red Dot recognized our work but it’s inaccurate to attribute this award only to the design team. There’s a tendency to look at accolades as the result of a skilled individual or team. In reality, it’s the sign of an ecosystem built on teamwork. Countless complex interactions go into product development. Building great products takes a village.

People make similar assumptions about Apple’s design chops. They assume Apple must have the best design team and the best design processes. Mark Kawano, a former design evangelist at Apple, refutes the hero mentality. “It’s actually the engineering culture, and the way the organization is structured to appreciate and support design,” says Kawano. “Everybody there is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers.”

His quote underscores an overlooked aspect of “good design.” There’s an illusion that it requires all-star designers focused intensely on aesthetics. Conversely, it requires a shared vision across each stage of product development — design, engineering, marketing, product management, and support. The user experience is too important to leave to designers. Everyone must feel responsible for it.

In an organization, design can act like a canary in the coal mine. It keeps everyone honest. If there’s comradery or dysfunction within teams, it will show up in the design.

In April, we announced the creation of Cisco’s first unified design team. The Design Group brings together all designers working on collaboration products. Creating a central design group aligns our values, ambitions, and practices across all areas — industrial, interactive, service, UX, and visual design. It creates an environment for building a holistic approach for the entire portfolio. This new team will help us shift away from creating products for customers to buy towards treating every product as a service, one that builds a long-term customer relationship. It also aligns with a broader Cisco initiative of teaching design thinking to a variety of employees and groups.

While Red Dot honors the Design Group, this award is a success for many teams. It demonstrates the scope and depth of teamwork we achieve when we work together. It’s no coincidence that we’re an organization committed to rethinking and redesigning the way teams work.

Learn more about the Cisco Spark portfolio.

Want to learn more about how the Design Group works? Take a behind-the-scenes peek at the creation of Cisco Spark Board:




Torkel Mellingen

Vice President

The Design Group