Over the last decade and more, design has become a business advantage. A well-crafted experience is based on deep customer understanding, relevant visuals and well-worked flows that can be the difference between a returning customer and one who walks away unsatisfied.
“Design isn’t just about beauty; it’s about market relevance and meaningful results.” John Maeda, designer and author.
Let’s face it, people are attracted to well-designed things and value them more than poorly designed products. Customers are constantly pushing companies’ design capabilities to meet consumers' rapid rise of expectations.
To meet this challenge and survive, companies such as Google, Nike, and Disney have taken on the strategy of becoming design-led to help them deliver constant and seamless experiences that connect with users on a much deeper level.
Being a design - led organisation means something different in every company but to Marvel it means that we combine a design mindset to business strategies throughout the business, we focus on the experiences of the users of our product and celebrate the culture of cross-functional expertise to help us find solutions in unique ways.
There are so many benefits to being a design-led company and not just in the obvious ways. For example, NASA integrated user-centered design techniques into the Lunar Rover Mission and have benefited from user interviews, user observations in context, and wireframing.
Being able to link design to business health has always been a tricky problem, but with reports like McKinsey’s Business of Design, it’s becoming harder to ignore the benefits of becoming a design-led company. Here are our takeaways of the benefits of being a design-led company.
It doesn’t matter about your industry
“Companies with strong design outperform industry benchmark growth by as much as two to one regardless of if your focus is on physical goods, digital products, services or a combination of these.”
Companies that are using customer feedback in their designs to help drive growth are being rewarded in both products and service-based industries. There is an increasing amount of opportunities that companies can follow to become more user-centric such as using prototyping and taking on an iterative approach to their products.
Research from the Design Council has also found that on average, for every £1 business invest in design, they gain over £4 net operating profit, over £20 net turnover and over £5 net exports.
More than a feeling
“Companies who performed the best financially understood that design is a top-management issue and have a strong C-suite support. They also assess design performance with the same rigor they used to track revenues and costs.”
It’s not enough for leaders to simply recognise the importance of design, they also have to maintain a baseline level of customer understanding. Companies that performed best in the McKinsey survey have executives who are genuinely curious about what users need. If you are a designer looking to gain your seat at the table, then here are 5 practical career-boosting tips to help you get there.
More than just a product
“Top-quartile companies embrace the full user experience; breaking down barriers between physical, digital and service design and merge them for full integrated experiences.”
This approach requires “solid customer insights gathered firsthand by observing and—more importantly—understanding the underlying needs of potential users in their own environments.” Once you truly understand your customers journeys, including their pain points, then you can start thinking outside of your ecosystem to create that all-encompassing user experience.
It’s everyone’s responsibility not just the designer’s
“Top companies recognise that user-centric design is everyone's responsibility and the best-performing companies said that they could break down functional silos and integrate designers into other functions.”
Marvel was created as a solution to anyone wanting to bring their ideas to life without needing to be a designer. Designers are involved in the process of additional features and products, from beginning to end and sometimes can play a more influential, sometimes strategic role, whilst also being seen and considered on the same level as other functions like marketing.
Being able to work in a company that has a great culture which shares and values each person’s intellectual curiosity and design sensibilities is also important. Allowing individuals to continue doing some brilliant work inside the company, but also continue to collaborate and help others do impressive work too, by talking and sharing what we have learned.
Iteration is perfection
“Almost 60 percent of companies said they used prototypes only for internal-production testing, late in the development process. The most successful companies consciously foster a culture of sharing early prototypes with outsiders and celebrating embryonic ideas.”
Design works really well in environments where there is constant learning, testing and iteration - this process helps reduce the risk of big, costly mistakes whilst still allowing exploration into other design possibilities.
Here at Marvel, we use a blend of qualitative and quantitative methods to help us improve and develop our product that will help make our users' lives easier. You can find out more about how we build products in our latest book, The User Testing Field Guide.
Great design knows no constraints
Design can add value to any organisation by driving innovation and opening up uncontested market spaces, differentiating products and services to attract loyal customers, whilst also strengthening branding, showing your company’s values and improving recognition. Business leaders from design led companies have cited sales growth, reductions in cost and increased efficiency in production. Service based companies including Marvel have confirmed that design thinking as a strategy has also led to features being shipped quicker, more successful product launches and increased customer satisfaction.
Companies that can take steps to becoming design lead with the five priorities mentioned can boost their odds of becoming more creative organisations that consistently design great products and services.
“Design is everything, because without it we have no business. Anybody can design a decent product. They can’t all design outstanding products. So, design is the differentiator.” - CEO, Pentland Brands plc (owners of Speedo)