Where would you be without design?

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While flicking through the newspaper on the train recently I couldn’t help but notice this double page ad sponsored by thecreativeindustries.co.uk

At Interrelated we help our clients achieve strength through image and culture.

One of our clients recently asked, what do we mean by ‘image’ in this context? To which our standard reply is that image and culture are two sides of the same coin and together they deliver an experience of the brand, which hopefully is in alignment with the brand promise.

However, specific to ‘image’ and to drill into this answer some more, it is essential to recognise the important role played by design.

Without a doubt ‘design’ is now firmly on the business agenda. But to understand in what way Warwick Business School, on behalf of the Design Council, conducted research on this subject by asking business leaders of various organisations how they use design and how they benefit from it.

In reviewing the answers given to the question above (the title of this article) it was quickly ascertained that design is a powerful differentiator and a key means of enhancing customer experience and commanding higher prices.

The Senior VP Global Marketing at Herman Miller (who make office furniture) said; “It would hurt us drastically, because our reputation is built on design. We’re considered the pioneers… We’d lose employee engagement, first of all, and I think we’d also lose any enthusiasm from our customers.”

Likewise, the General Manager for Innovation at Diageo said; “We would lack differentiation… We would need to go out there and compete with one hand behind our back”.

Perhaps it is partly down to the success of companies like Apple, that there is now a widespread understanding that design can add significant value to an orgnaisation. However, it is also in part down to the economic downturn, which placed increasing pressure on businesses to differentiate their offerings. And also in part due to the rapidly growing digital economy, which has stimulated companies to think more creatively about services and more innovatively about products.

The Danish Design Centre identified four stages in maturity toward use of design in business;

1). The first is simply ‘no design’ as the company has yet to understand its role and how it might be applied.

2). The second is to see design as merely a ‘styling’ tool such as improved brand recognition. To back this up Design Council research has shown that, on average, for every £1 businesses invest in design they gain over £4 in net operating profit.

3). At the third level the organisation begins to introduce design as ‘process’ to inform strategic thinking and drive morale and productivity. In this way design is becoming embedded in company culture and plays a more influential role. Thus it is considered at the same level as other functions (such as marketing and advertising).

4). The fourth level is when the organisation use design as ‘strategy’, not as an add-on but to actually structure development and strategy. Research proves that at this level organisations benefit the most from design and this is evidenced in a clear difference in their bottom line.

In summary, design is recognised as being most powerful when culturally embedded. *

Successful design and innovation in business often requires a company to make brave decisions. It is therefore essential in business these days that senior management have a good understanding and appreciation of design.

When we speak about strength in image and culture we see them as two sides of the same coin. They cannot be separated from one another and should be considered equally when seeking to grow the brand as a valuable asset to any business or organisation.

* Source; “Leading Business by Design”, published by Warwick Business School and the Design Council, UK.

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