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Your Organization Can’t Afford to Ignore Good Design

Your customers will reward you for it.

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BY Ayse Birsel - 21 Apr 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Last week I wrote about, what makes a design-led or centered organization different from other organizations. Thank you for all the interest the article generated.

I had a selfish reason for the article. As a designer I want to make the value of design apparent for companies. Not only for design-led companies that are already reaping benefits from being design centered (to the tune of 200 percent increase in returns, based on Design Value Index) but especially for those companies who see design as an afterthought or still view it as "styling".

Most people know what a lawyer does and when you would need to call one. Same for plumbers. But designers and the value they bring is not so easy to pinpoint.

This week I reached out to Carol Bilson, President of Design Management Institute (DMI). Carol and her team have been working with design-centered organizations across the world to make design's value tangible for business. Design Value Index is their work. Here is what she said:

"A design-led or design-centered organization differs from an organization in which design is not considered a strategic asset on two levels. From an organization structure perspective, it has a senior level design executive who sits on the company/ organization leadership team, or reports into that team, has the requisite budgets and has a diverse group of experienced designers as part of the design team. From a cultural/ behavioral standpoint, people in the broader organization embrace design and co-collaborate well across functional boundaries, are empathic thinkers, and recognize that everything they do is centered around their customers and leads to meaningful solutions that drive value for the organization. Research done by DMI has shown that design-centric organizations have over the past 3 years, consistently outperformed the S&P 500 by over 200 percent."

 

Takeaway #1: If you want design to be part of your business, make it part of your leadership.

I then reached out to Debbie Millman, founder and host of my favorite design podcast, Design Matters, and she said:

"In design-led organizations, design permeates every initiative and expression. It's embedded in the culture. Companies that are design-led understand that design is not a deliverable; it is a profound manifestation of the human spirit."

 

Takeaway #2: Design requires a human-centered culture that puts your user at the center of your thinking. Your customers will recognize that culture and reward you for it.

I also asked Susan Lyons, President of Designtex, a Steelcase company, and a collaborator. She emphasized the symbiotic relationship between commerce + design:

"Commerce is about creating value, solving problems and delivering great experiences for people. Design strives to do the same thing. We use design thinking to look at every aspect of our business--from product to the design of the organization. It works."

 

Takeaway #3: Design is in every expression of your company. Just think of Apple, Coca Cola, Target, Nike--design defines every experience we have with them.

Then I thought of Steve Jobs. Specifically of the night he died. We all probably remember where we were that moment. I was having an early dinner with friends in Chinatown in NYC. It was someone's birthday and we were celebrating but also acknowledging a big loss for all of us. When I went home I was so moved that I told my 6 year old daughter who was in bed what had happened. I said, you know all the things we use, my Mac, iPhone and iPad? The man who designed them died tonight. My daughter rose from her bed and sat up, and said, "Mom, how will we live now?"

To me that is the value of design. We cannot live without good design. Design makes our experiences simple, delightful, intuitive and coherent; it makes us feel like someone thought of us and took good care of us.

 

Takeaway #4: Design helps us live the lives we love.

What value does design bring to your company? How is your design-centered company different from its competitors? I would love to hear from you.

Design the life you love.