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Visibility through design

Visibility through design

15 November 2013 Written by By Clive Grinyer Director of Customer Experience, Cisco

Clive Grinyer is Director of Customer Experience at Cisco, the multinational designer and manufacturer of networking equipment. He founded Tangerine with Jonathan Ive and Martin Darbyshire in 1989, Clive has since worked at IDEO, Orange, Samsung and Fitch. He shares his experience and tips on how to use design to deliver powerful results and shape a successful business.

Good design means the whole user experience, not just the brand.

When I was at Orange we realised that we had to think further and design the whole experience, rather than just the handset, because we were exposed to competition.

Orange had no idea how they would be affected by companies like Google, but they had a big suspicion they would be. I remember the most senior executives at Orange having very emotional discussions about the colour of an icon because they felt that their very identity was going to be experienced by their customers. That says something interesting to me about design. The discussion wasn’t about cost or big commercial strategies, it was about the colour of an icon!

Use design to help your customers envisage what you see

It wasn't at all apparent why design would help Cisco. However, it was apparent that design would help their customers do something with the power of the technology. So most of my time as a designer at Cisco has been working with customers.

There is almost no company or sector in the world that hasn’t got Cisco in it in some form, so we work a lot in retail, as well as financial services, public services, manufacturing, oil and gas, film – you name it. But at the end of the day, underneath it all is the same stuff.

Changing our customers’ perspective of how technology can help them is one of the key things we use design for.

Create experiences that work within the company.

As our employees become more sophisticated (and we see it in our customers’ employees as well) they start to bring in iPads and iPhones, devices that corporate IT departments don’t give you. Life’s got a bit more complicated. Not just end-consumers – but employees themselves – have got more demanding of what they’re using.

So, for example, we’re building a very exciting new internal platform that brings in internal social media and really tries to capture the changes in the way people work. And then of course we can turn it into a product and take it outside and give it to the wider world to use in the same way.

I’m finding more and that our leaders are pointing to our outputs and saying ‘that’s how to do it’. We don’t use PowerPoint at Cisco, we build live demos and design them well which makes it very tangible and makes the technology work in a way it didn't necessarily before.

Anticipate the future and figure out how to respond.

R&D Departments are very good at creating a possible future. It’s their raison d'être to constantly pump out new ideas, but those ideas sit on the table – and what do you do with them? One of the most common complaints I hear from companies of all sizes is: ‘Well we’ve got lots of ideas, but we don’t know which ones to do, or how to do them'.

These are all valuable, important things, but there’s clearly something missing. The act of design is pulling those things together, converting them into visions – I think vision is an important word – so these are things we could do, this is how we might actually do it, and that does a number of important things. first it focuses everyone’s ideas on what they could do, and they can instantly feel what that might be like for their customers.

Complement rather than displace other approaches.

I do 'design thinking' every day and I think differently to accountants and management consultants as a result. There’s no reason why they can’t think the same way as me, but they don’t do it naturally. And I don’t think the same way that they do. But I am good at telling stories about how the future might be, or changing a project manager’s view of who their customer is, so they can really become empathic and drive the project in a more efficient way.

Make design part of the process.

Designers can cooperate, they can bring together many threads and they can make various possible consequences of those threads visible and tangible. So they aid decision-making. I don’t think we’re talking about designers necessarily having the right to make decisions any more than anybody else – but we’re talking about the incredible and powerful decision making process that will come from having designers as part of that top-level process.

Image from Flickr Creative Commons: Burning Red

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