Steve Jobs couldn’t have said it any better. “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Another great quote on good design was said by Dr. Ralf Speth, CEO, Jaguar – “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” But design is not just a buzzword. There are significant studies that show that businesses that have invested in good design for their brand have had significant returns on their investment.
The Design Management Institute and Motiv Strategies, a Microsoft funded strategy firm, analyzed the performance & value of publicly held companies that met specific design management criteria that were dedicated to using design as an integral part of their business strategy. The impact of their investments in design on stock value was then mapped against S&P 500 indexed companies to see the difference in performance over a ten year period. And the results are remarkable.
(Image Source: The Design Management Institute)
The companies that incorporated design as the central piece to their strategies have outperformed S&P 500 indexed companies by 211% over a 10 year period as per the 2015 DVI study.
And it is no surprise that the difference is that much more. Design Thinking is a field that allows you to look at problems differently to resolve issues in a manner that challenges the status quo. Designing is not just about how products look like, it can be applied to systems, methods, protocols, customer experiences and a wide range of challenges that businesses face. When it comes to business, design thinking pushes organizations to focus on the people they’re creating for, their customers, which then leads to better goods, services, and internal processes. As more companies apply formal design processes to non-design processes including marketing and sales, business leaders are consistently seeking out creative design professionals and teams for collaboration. It’s no wonder that over the last 5 years, the focus on design thinking that enables problem-solving creatively has taken center stage. Companies have started investing heavily in design professionals to ensure a steady stream of innovative ideation.
Great designs must have that “wow” factor which is created only when companies rethink their products and services with the end customer in mind, ensuring a greater focus on not just how products and services look like but also how they function and ultimately how are they received by the consumers. This push for good design is transforming the way leading companies are creating value. The focus of innovation has shifted from being engineering-driven to design-driven, from product-centric to customer-centric, and from marketing-focused to user-experience-focused. An increasing number of CEOs have now started to consider design thinking at the core of effective strategy development and organizational change.
So, here are a few examples of companies that have done amazingly well by resolving challenges using design:
Founded by two designers, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, Airbnb has built a behemoth of a business by using design thinking in everything they do. One particular reason why the business has done so well was due to their community-focused approach which allowed them to build a product that the community would love. And quite frankly, Airbnb has built a strong community within the organization and with its partners & followers, one that rallies behind its mission and vision, not just in America but globally.
A brainchild of Sir James Dyson, the brand was founded in 1991 with one sole purpose. Re-imagine vacuum machines and other home appliances to deliver a unique customer experience. From vacuum cleaning with cyclone technology and then with a cordless, handheld model, the company has completely changed the landscape for how consumers look at vacuum machines. And now the brand has branched out to hairdryers, air purifiers, heating systems, amongst others completely changing how the consumers perceive and interact with these products, hugely increasing their expectations from similar products from other brands. This has been the company’s core pitch. Reimagine products from a design perspective and offer something completely different that no one else has.
Dyson’s winning formula: even though pricing is definitely on the higher side, consumers don’t mind paying a premium simply because of the amazing product design that makes it a treat to use them. At the same time, the engineering is simply marvelous that ensures the product is of great use. For example, which an ordinary hairdryer is known to damage hair due to the excessive heat, Dyson’s hair dryers are based on a proprietory sound technology that allows the hair to dry faster without the need for heating. Therefore, it claims to be completely damage free for the hair. A great claim for the end-user. No wonder the brand continuously gets rave reviews for its iconic design, precision quality engineering, and amazing usability.
IBM’s in house innovation lab leads the design thinking for their clients and customers. The design thinking team helps IBM’s customers to tackle their challenges by innovating and creating human-centered solutions that elevate the end-user experience. In fact, the brand’s 8 bar logo is also representative of the brand’s awareness of the importance of design in business.
From a business almost at the verge of bankruptcy, Netflix has become a behemoth purely based on the fact that it has continuously spent a large portion of the money in R&D. This has been the key factor for the change of the business model from Blockbuster to the Netflix that we know of today. While streaming service has been a great business model for Netflix, but this has been made possible since design thinking is entrenched deeper in Netflix that most think of. Customer experience being at the core of everything that Netflix does, it recently released the first of its kind – Interactive Movie – Bandersnatch, a black mirror series based movie. The key aspect of the interactive movie was that it is filled with sections where users are given objective choices to choose from wherein the storyline changes as per the choices made.
At a deeper level, while this is great for a unique customer experience that guarantees that the choices made ensure no two viewers view the movie with the same storyline, it also helps Netflix in the long run to potentially use the video technology to collect deep-rooted customer data by asking specific questions during other such movies or series. They can then use this data to further accurately predict user behavior especially the kind of content they should be investing further and which kind to be avoided.
Tesla challenged the status quo of the car industry by not only producing an electric car but one that beat most petrol-fuelled race mongers with ease. By building a street-legal electric race car for the everyday driver, Tesla allowed its users to enjoy an extremely safe vehicle that came with a long driving range for eliminating consumer roadblocks with regards to the drivability of the cars. Additionally, the cars are known to offer highly advanced safety features, amazingly low running costs, extremely customer-friendly service, awesome customer experience, brand appeal, and a cause to associate with. Not to mention the desirability of a race car that people simply drool over.
Made possible by design thinking, Tesla didn’t look at how they too can build a new car, they imagined how can they change the way people move from location to another. This gave birth to SpaceX, SolarCity, The Boring Company and PowerWall. All products and companies in that ecosystem are aimed at changing the way people commute. Now that’s design thinking made possible!
Why your business needs Good design
- Stand out from your competitors with an amazing design language
Every company in every industry has a competitor. If not a major competitor, then a startup being run from somebody’s basement is getting ready to disrupt the industry and take your market share. However, with design thinking and a relentless focus on customer experience, you can still maintain your market share and grow your business further. At the same time, you need to focus on great designs that are modern, current, and impressive, people will just gravitate towards your products.
- Promote brand consistency with good designs
Can you imagine a Nike shoe without the swoosh logo, a MacBook or an iPhone with a mango in the logo or the McDonald’s website with purple arches? It’s difficult to put your head around the concept. That’s simply because Nike’s swoosh, apple’s apple logo, and McDonald’s golden arches, wherever they may be, are part of the brands’ image the world over. Since those designs are so memorable, it’s hard to imagine them changing, and that’s a really good thing. This includes a great logo, brand identity, amazing videos with your brand identity, sales & marketing collaterals with your design theme, a website that highlights your story with your design language, and your communication pieces designed on your brand design themes.
Consistency is key when it comes to creating a cohesive brand.
- The key to social media success: Good Designs
Social Media is an integral part of a business strategy. Be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, social media is one of the best ways to connect with customers, make content go viral, and build a brand for your business. As per Mary Meeker’s internet trends report, Video-based content consumption would increase the most as compared to others the most. Therefore, ensuring a consistent visual presence across social media content such as image, videos, logos, website, branding collaterals, etc. is extremely crucial for good brand recall.
At the end of the day, technology or any differentiating factor in your business can only take you so far. What you need if to design your business around great customer experience. Businesses that are able to achieve that will always do better than others. Apple, Tesla, IBM, and so many other companies have done well over the years because they focussed on customer experience which is powered by design thinking at the core.
Think about it. There’s a reason why Coca-cola does better than RC Cola, Facebook is a $500 billion dollar business while Orkut has died.
There was a time when Facebook was just a startup and Orkut was huge and so was Myspace. The rest is all history. It doesn’t matter if you are a small business, medium enterprise or a large scale business, if you want exponential growth, you have got to focus on design!