As we count down to our own rebrand, Lee Coomber, Creative Director for Europe and Middle East at creative consultancy Lippincott, talks about why having a design vision for your company is important
With multinational companies acquiring design expertise at a rate of knots, it would appear there has never been a better time to be a designer. Here in the UK, a new report, jointly authored by Nesta and Creative England, found there was a 20% rise in the volume of design agencies between 2007 and 2014 — a far higher growth rate than has ever been seen in the software and digital industries.
Elsewhere, Accenture bought dgroup, a German consultancy specialising in digital design. IBM purchased three design agencies, swelling the number of designers on its payroll by almost 100% to 1,900. And McKinsey purchased Lunar, a design consulting giant.
So, what’s happening? It’s a dying assumption that design happens in the final stages of a process, used merely to style or decorate. And it’s becoming clear that transformation comes from seamlessly tying design thinking and doing from an organisation’s business strategy and culture. In other words, it’s in the mix from the very start.
The design revolution that is happening is much more than the aesthetic; it is an entirely different way of tackling problems. It is about making a company’s entire vision and business strategy come alive in every moment in the experience. It is about creating unique and very valuable emotional bonds that can surpass the rational. Apple, Disney, Ikea, Google and Facebook are a few old favourite brands that have blazed this trail. It’s then no wonder that smarter businesses today are now building creative design processes and ‘ways of doing’ into each and every touch point of the journey. In an age when everything is continually scrutinised and reviewed, brands can’t afford a weak link in their courtship of the customer. It doesn’t work to simply talk your way into people’s hearts, you need to demonstrate both purpose and personality through actions and experiences.
Simple, effortless, ergonomically delightful, sensual experiences that fit in our lives in a new and unanticipated way are what we will pay for, rather than a special widget, or a discernibly better engine. Sonos, Nest and Libratone aren’t just good products, they are brilliant experiences from the start. They immediately simplify, anticipate and integrate into life. The likes of Uber and Hailo aren’t providing a new service but they certainly deliver a new way of experiencing it, with the ability to anticipate customers' irritations, anxieties and emotions and solve them with a joined-up experience and intuitive design response.
In a similar way, Airbnb has taken our new-found ability to connect, and an old desire to explore new experiences, to design an elegant business to facilitate the matching. What they all have in common is they’re intermediated through type, image, graphics, movement, sound and smart design.
In our chaotic, competitive landscape with so much choice, consumers will choose brands they believe in, love interacting with, those that connect with them on a visceral level. This is where design sensibility can cut through utility and ordinariness to delight. Google's daily doodles, Mini’s attention to twisting automotive conventions, the elegance, design polish and sophistication of MR Porter or Leica’s product authenticity, surrounded by an ecosystem that is all about celebrating the craft of photography, are just a few examples.
So whether it’s a new entrant like Deliveroo bursting open a category, or established brands like Leica rebooting themselves, design is to business what evolution is to nature: it enables brands to change and survive. The best businesses today embrace this new design reality of creating experiences deeply grounded in business strategy.
It is becoming less of a visual tactic and more the means of interacting with customers and building the emotional bonds that enrich everyone. And with it, opening up infinite opportunities for creating, extending and reviving businesses.