To help more people in business focus on the impact of design, I have five tips to shaping design-led thinking in the boardroom.
1. Engage design from inception
In the past there was a common held belief that if it's not broken, why fix it? In the modern day this is no longer applicable. Brand owners can no longer be complacent, as even the best products can be swiftly replicated. The only truly protectable and ownable dimension is design. For maximum impact, design must be involved from the very start of the innovation process, not at the tail end of it. Board engagement and belief in design, especially from the CEO/CMO, is the way to ensure this.
2. Embed design champions
Design shouldn’t just be about ticking boxes. The power of great design to transform is most effective when there are (well supported) design champions who can embed design-led thinking into your projects.
Make sure these champions are involved in all major projects or campaigns and projects from the earliest stages. Build a coherent planning process, with structured reviews that refer back to the original design brief
3. Enhance user experience
Move away from the focus of innovation being reliant on a product promises and start thinking about improving the user experience. Apple were at the forefront of dramatically changing user experience, as opposed to simple hardware upgrades (which perhaps Nokia were guilty of until the arrival of the Lumia).
The key is to create user-centric solutions with design representing the needs of the user.
4. Make design as important as supply
Manufacturing and supply concerns such as cost increases, line efficiencies and capex requirements often create the belief that design is expensive. Avoid falling into this trap by making design an equal partner with supply, R&D and marketing from the very inception of a project. Even if there are genuine concerns, early involvement provides time to resolve these, and to build robust business cases.
This is something that can be embedded whether you are an SME or a global organisation.
5. Create and build design to last
In my experience, I've found that for every £1000 companies spend on advertising, £150-200 is usually spent on market research while £35-40 is spent on design.
For most global branded companies such as Coke, Nike, Apple, P&G and Unilever, 80-85% of their market value can be attributed to their brand. Design is about innovation and communication and that's exactly what is needed to build powerful and sustainable brands. Where technology is not exclusive, simple product innovation is very difficult to protect from replication. Therefore make a case for design investment to be much higher so that products and services can be created to be sustainable and market leading.
On a final note, design community leaders need to stand up and make the case for design. Advertising and Market Research both have had their iconic champions over the years, who were very visible, and provided Boards with the assurance that spending on advertising / market research was an investment, not a cost.
It is time for design community leaders to step out of the shadows and engage directly at board level.