“We all know examples of bad product and service design. The USB plug (always lucky on the third try). The experience of rushing to make your connecting flight at many airports. The exhaust port on the Death Star in Star Wars. We also all know iconic designs, such as the Swiss Army Knife, the humble Google home page, or the Disneyland visitor experience.
All of these are constant reminders of the way strong design can be at the heart of both disruptive and sustained commercial success in physical, service, and digital settings.”
So starts a recent report from McKinsey called “The Business Value of Design.” Following similar studies by industry organizations like the UK Design Council, Danish Design Council and Design Management Institute, McKinsey tracked the design practices of 300 publicly listed companies over a five-year period in multiple countries and industries. Two questions are at the heart of the report:
- How do companies deliver exceptional designs, launch after launch?
- What is design worth?
At our recent Design in the Age of Experience event in Milan, McKinsey’s Gianluca Brugnoli, Chief Experience Design, shared the results of the report with our audience. He started his talk with the following video:
Brugnoli, who was joined on stage by our CATIA CEO, Philippe Laufer, stressed how design is not just about comfort and beauty – it is a powerful business tool. There is also a business side, and integrating strong design can help boost business performances.
Understanding customers and their experiences is required to create sustainable, human-focused design strategies. But perhaps more importantly for businesses, this is critical to creating the very best designs – essential in today’s environment of sky high consumer expectations driven by online shopping and the blurring of lines between hardware, software, and services.
Also a professor, Brugnoli shared that he observes a growing appetite among design students to work in-house at a company – a shift in direction from the years where candidates said the ideal job was in a design agency. He cited the reason as in-house being is where more of the cool projects are taking place, which he attributed to the digital revolution. This digital shift has been largely analyzed by John Maeda in his “ Design in Tech” reports (Maeda was a keynote speaker in our 2016 Design in the Age of Experience event; watch an interview with him from that time.) He argues that to successfully bring a digital approach into the culture of a company requires designers. The reason, he said, is that it is not just about technology but it’s about the impact on people and the experience – something that requires a design approach.
The question isn’t does design have a business value – that is a given, with the financial data to prove it – it’s about how does a company unlock that value. Typically, decision-makers ask: What is the business value of design? What actions can my company take? He shared McKinsey’s approach to figuring this out via a design action scorecard, and to asking questions about what steps need to be taken: nominating a Chief Design Officer, a comprehensive design team, design tools, etc. But he stressed that design must be more than a department – it needs to be cross-functional activity. It also needs to be a continual process and not just a phase. And it needs to be about more than a product – it’s about the customer’s experience and journey.
Brugnoli stressed that design alone is not enough; cultural change and corporate investment are required. This can’t just be within middle management – it is something that needs to be understood and implemented at the highest levels of the company. Designers can’t live in a bubble. They need to to be embedded in the company, understand the business challenges for the company and from the perspective of its customers from the beginning of the design process.
Design delivers value in many ways. It’s about Design Thinking, sustainability, experiences that deliver the best products and services. It enable companies to build new innovations to life. And perhaps most importantly, it can help create new competencies for a company.
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