Design thinking

What can Design ever do for Business?

Ellen Wheatley

To say that Design can boost Business is probably perceived as rather far-fetched to many people, but to design industry professionals it goes without saying. The fault that many of us do, in whatever profession, is that we forget that everyone’s expertise is limited to the field in which they act, work or is interested in.

There is of course, more to design than the shape and finish of a product – just as there is more to banking than just savings and loans. Let me enlighten you to the field of design, without getting lost in industry jargon: design is as much about innovation, problem solving and meeting the needs of the end user, as it is about the final experience of a product.

However, as the market economy has evolved and competition equally, the design challenges have become increasingly complex. More is required of the designer in order to provide his/her client with Return of Investment.

To effectively and purposefully meet the demands and expectations of the design client, designers have, throughout the ‘60s and till present day, put as much effort into developing efficient and effective methods for informing their design as they have into actually designing.

Design based on knowledge of the end user, use context and the desired end result/experience the end user wants to achieve by using with the product – the better are the chances that the design will fly and the design client will gain ROI.

Traditionally, and still to some degree within certain areas of the design industry, design is thought of as an artistic expression that more reflects the designer’s mind-set than accounts for the needs of the end user.

Informed design results in better products, products that do and work as end users expect them to. Products that facilitates life and adds that little extra. In short, the field of design has grown from a naïve, selfish child to a street-smart, unconventional and empathetic lady.

Contemporary design is as much about the design process as the final product. It is an innovation process that originates and builds upon the needs, ambitions and aspirations of the end user. A process that guarantees that the design solutions are according to what the end users actually crave, understand how to use and feel appealed by – rather than a pure guesstimate by the designer about the customer’s desires and behaviours.

80% of all businesses believe they deliver a 'superior experience' to their customers. But only 8% of customers agree.

Bain Customer Led Growth diagnostic questionnaire; n=362

Designers, being doers as opposed to thinkers, sit upon a plethora of quick, down to the point methods that provides guidance and spark creativity. Methods that in order to solve problems seek solutions and efficiently materializes progression. Simply sprung out of the designer’s need to better understand for who, what, where and why, they are designing.

Quite a number of businesses would do well to honestly get to know their customers: Have a face-to-face conversation and take a deep dive into the real needs, drivers and aspirations of the individuals they serve– for here lies the land of opportunity.

If businesses get it right and manage to provide the users with what they not only require, but desire and actually cannot live without, then they will not only have a loyal customer – they will have an advocate. Applying design methods to explore, generate, evaluate and validate business offerings, be they physical, digital or service products, or a combination of them all in experience ecosystems, is worth every penny spent and a necessity in order to withstand competition – today and tomorrow.