THE KA has caused a good deal of interest since its launch three years ago, not least because it showed a level of innovation not usually associated with mass market car manufacturers.

But Ford has come to see the wide-ranging role that design can play. Marketing specialists, engineers and stylists now work much more closely together in a variety of companies in an attempt to satisfy and, more important, anticipate consumers' needs. If firms had simply produce variations on the same theme, the now commonplace "people mover" and four-wheel-drive "sports utility" vehicles would never have appeared.

It is possible to take this process even further, though. And that is what Jerry Hirshberg has set out to do at Nissan Design International, the studio he established 20 years ago. In his book, The Creative Priority, Hirshberg, a former General Motors designer, shows how the centre uses creativity as the basis for its organisation.

He says polarities, or opposites, can inspire rather than stifle innovation, and organisations should not put limits on what ideas are acceptable. Similarly, boundaries can inhibit creative thought. Creativity, says Hirshberg, seeks to integrate and unify, even though disorder may result.

Hirshberg adds these principles can be applied widely, "at the heart of the corporation and across its department borders, so that it might become a fertile ground - rather than a burial ground - nourishing and growing innovative ideas"