Economics is discovering design. Heaven help us! There is an interesting post on Intangible Economy blog by Ken Jarboe about design as a competitive weapon. It is filled with facts. Seems like half of all products returned are not broken--people just can't figure out how to use them. Consumers spend up to 20 minutes figuring out how to work something--then just quit. Design can add huge value here by making complex things simple and usable. Nothing we don't already know right? But a lesson that has to be continually taught.
The whole issue of design as an intangible factor in economics plugs into the raging debate going on in the economics field over the role of intangibles in economic growth--stuff like design and education isn't included as "investment" in the data. Mike Mandel, my smart-as-heck-economist colleague is deep into the battle and it involves "dark matter" (no, I'm not kidding) and other weird stuff.
Even Tom Peters is talking about dark matter.