Design Thinking is Serious Business


Did you know the design of the Coca Cola bottle was inspired by the shape and the contour of the Cocoa bean? And that the design of the Mini Cooper was the result of restraints in fuel supply during the 1950s caused by the Suez crisis? There are innumerable such examples of designs that are either inspired by the imagination or are a result of providing a solution for a problem. These have eventually gone on to become design icons.

In this article, we will reflect on how designs impact businesses and how they achieve business goals. The unique design of the Coca Cola bottle created by the noted industrial designer, Raymond Loewy, was recognizable even in the dark & with the Coca Cola red, it has created brand history over the years. It was created to make the original Coca Cola bottle easily recognizable for their loyal customers, from that of their competitors. Competitors of Coca Cola at that time were selling products that were similar to Coca Cola in terms of names, packaging, etc. Thus this seemingly small investment in design reaped huge rewards for the brand and is one of the biggest reasons behind its sustained success over generations. Designer Sir Alex Issigonis in the 1950s designed the Mini Cooper to solve a problem of fuel shortage in that particular period and became an efficient city car. Later, BMW made it into a style icon by making it a fun drive, was reasonably practical to use and also delivered fuel economy.

The customers have thus stayed true to these brands and keep giving them repeat business, which makes these brands profitable and has maintained their relevance through the years.

Design is the Intermediary between Consumer Insights, Creativity, and Business Goals

The above two examples demonstrate the strong links between consumer insights, design/creativity, and business goals, and how they are interconnected. When a business gains consumer insights, it can evaluate if they can do better than they are currently doing, what kind of advantages the competitors are offering, and what kind of value additions can be done to our own product/service. In addition, creativity and innovation is another important part of the arsenal for business growth. With creativity, the designer can dream up the kind of experiences the business can provide to their customers and how it can be used to better their lives. When this is made possible, business goals are much easier to achieve as a result of consumer loyalty.

Design-centric Companies Rule the Roost

With the rise of the global market, companies need to become more design & customer-centric than ever before. The McKinsey Design Index (MDI) ranks companies based on how strongly they have integrated the design capabilities in their core functions. The findings of this research revealed that the top-quartile MDI scorers improved their revenues & returns to shareholders (TRS) significantly quicker than their industry counterparts in five years. Their revenue growth was observed to have a 32% higher growth rate and a TRS growth rate of 56% higher over the entire five year period.

The findings from the research conducted for the McKinsey Design Index (MDI) sharply indicate that good design matters whether the company trades in physical goods, digital products and/or services or a combination of these.

It was also observed that markets disproportionately rewarded companies that succeeded in standing out based on design superiority compared to their competitors.

Customer Involvement in Business

With so many communication channels open, customers freely give feedback to the company and talk amongst each other over social media and other channels, thereby allowing comparisons between various designs available and figuring out the most favored of the lot. Therefore, the customers themselves offer these insights on the product/services, whether companies want to listen or not! Thus, they are increasingly playing a greater role in the design process and on the bottom line of companies and bring in higher turnovers.

A huge amount of user data and advances in artificial intelligence (AI) afford us amazing insights into consumer behavior and have paved the way for value analytics and computational design. If there is a need to get in touch with real customers, it can be done through a multitude of channels like social media and smart devices. It has thus become easier and mandatory to place the user at the core of business decisions. Fast access to real customers is readily available through multiple channels, notably social media and smart devices. All of these developments should place the user at the heart of business decisions in a way that is desired by all design leaders. Unfortunately, over 40% of the surveyed companies are still not considering end-users at the development stages of their product/service.

Business Advantages of Embracing Design First Attitude

In the current business scenario, designers are not given priority while making business decisions. Sadly, their opinions are considered only as an afterthought and are used as a band-aid or to fix what seems broken. Many design decisions get stuck in a management rigmarole and are seldom pitched to higher management. When they do get a chance, decisions get based on gut feeling rather than on concrete data. Also, Designers too often are not able to convey the business goals that can be achieved through measurable metrics if a user-centric design is embraced. Therefore, it would benefit businesses to remember the quote by the creator of Trello, Joel Spolsky – “Design adds value faster than it adds costs.”

Written by Priya Dubey / July 15, 2019