An intriguing but unconvincingly documented argument that innovative product design can give corporations a decisive edge in international as well as domestic markets. Lorenz (a Financial Times editor) traces the evolution of design from its austere Bauhaus roots in post-WW I Europe through the flashier (or nondescript) applications to be found in latter-day America. Until the 1970's, he contends, Western companies failed to develop consistently effective marketing strategies; since then, intensifying competition in global outlets and other factors have forced enterprise to upgrade its merchandising skills. As one result, he concludes, the role played by industrial design has been expanded. Roughly half the profusely and imaginatively illustrated text is devoted to once-over-lightly case studies of design-oriented multinationals. In the spotlight are the likes of John Deere (the producer of streamlined tractors with ergonomic seating that still attracts fan mail from farmers), Ford (whose motor vehicles now boast aerodynamic styling), and Sony (which will stake millions on its capacity to make accurate socioeconomic forecasts). Covered as well is Kenneth Grange, an English consultant whose design credits include London's parking meters, Kodak Instamatic cameras, and a disposable razor which put Wilkinson back in the wet-shave game. There's little doubt that industrial designers who stay in touch with technology and end users have significant contributions to make to any product development effort. Whether their corporate influence is indeed increasing remains a very open question, at least on the basis of the scanty evidence offered here. The many shoddy goods reaching market also suggest that the design trade includes as many inept as talented pracitioners. Nor does the author provide any systematic perspectives on how computer-aided design may affect either the profession or its clients. In brief, then, a narrowly focused thesis that's longer on ifs and may-bes than substantive proofs.