5 Rules of Design That You Can Apply in Business Schools

Shruti Gupta

Four months, 12 core courses, a new club (I+D club)* and 16 social events have happened since my last post. The experience at INSEAD has been truly amazing, and the learning immense. Amidst all the activities and 200 alpha peers, I felt like the odd one out in the beginning - a designer with little experience in finance and accounts.

I asked myself - “How do I chart my way in one of the best business schools in the world?”

After stumbling and fretting through the Business Foundation and first few weeks of P1, I went back to design basics. I experimented with multiple options to find my rhythm in this fast-paced course and realised that the following five rules of design can also be applied to INSEAD education.

1. Rule of Thirds

A simple rule, it requires the designer to divide any given space in three rows and columns with focal points added to each intersection. This rule is so common that it often reflects in many business concepts such as Economics (as the ‘three major competitors’), Organisation Design (as ‘technology, people and processes’), and new ventures (as ‘entrepreneur, team and investors’). The focal points on the other hand aid in using your time and effort more effectively. 

Similarly, studying at INSEAD is an intersection of ‘academics, career and social life’ where you need to actively engage in club activities, group assignments and meet new people regularly both on and off campus. Time is a precious commodity and focusing your attention will prevent you from spreading too thin.

2. Direct the Eye With Leading Lines

A designer holds the power of controlling your viewpoint by positioning the design’s lines and shapes strategically. This means that the audience will view your work in the direction you lead them to. Think of how in business, we use flow charts and diagrams to present our ideas and build upon them.

While expanding your horizons with new information and perspectives at INSEAD, it is important to distill this information in a way that it connects with your background and future goal, much like the leading lines of an artwork.

3. Use Elements That Complement Each Other

A successful composition is possible only when the designer places the elements of their design in such a way that the whole is far more captivating than the individual elements put together. This idea is often applied while setting up project teams in various organisations. Only a few months ago, I had the privilege of instituting an Innovation and Design (I+D) Club at INSEAD. The leadership team that got together to run activities of the club are my compliments who came forward in many ways.

Although these amazing individuals have varied backgrounds, they all hold the same vision for the club - creative problem-solving for business.

4. Boost (or Reduce) Your Contrast

Contrast is an incredibly useful tool for both highlighting and hiding certain elements of a design. Successful businesses are similar in a way that they are able to boost a few key strengths and blur their weaknesses better than the competitors. You can use the same principle in tackling certain difficult aspects of studying in a leading business school. For instance, during my initial days in the study group, I benefited more by accepting unanimous decisions rather than taking the lead, as a lot of the information was new to me.

However, when I initiated the I+D club, I came from a position of strength, and was therefore able to guide club members and initiate activities. INSEAD has a strong culture of support and guidance which you can use to work on your weaknesses and build your strengths.

5. Don't Forget the White Space 

‘White space’ when used strategically can help boost a design’s clarity and overall look by balancing the more complicated and busy parts of the composition with space that helps the design breathe. With squeezed timelines and active social happenings, you need to keep your focus and balance your priorities. Between academics, career hunt, social activities, new-old friends and family, I routinely felt stretched. Eventually, I carved my white space by consciously taking breaks and only choosing activities I really wanted to participate in.

Even though, I’m yet to experience the next six months of INSEAD, I feel a lot more confident and comfortable with my course of action. I have had a brilliant study group, amazing trips, and made some great friends. I’m excited and looking forward to the coming periods at INSEAD.

*About the INSEAD Innovation and Design (I+D) Club: Design thinking is becoming integral to businesses with recent investments by universities and companies (examples are Stanford & McKinsey respectively). ‘Creativity’ is also one of the most desirable attributes for recruiters, and our club is specifically focused on acquiring this key skill. The club aims to bring together like-minded people who believe in a human-centred design approach to creative problem-solving and innovation.

We organise Speaker Series, workshops and company visits to build design thinking and creative problem-solving capabilities in INSEAD. The club has over 200 active members on both campuses and I’m currently leading the club in Singapore. You can contact us at [email protected] for more information.