Many clients ask our design team about ways of inserting design into their product-based companies. Many companies tack on design rather than take a deeper look at how to leverage it. But this isn’t quite the right strategy, and this tactic is often used because they see their competitors doing it.

Why do I need design as part of my company DNA?

If you sell a product or a service, design matters. If you have a customer interaction with your employees, design matters. The best design is the one you don’t see – the feel of a well crafted car, a checkout at an airline that’s seamless, calling a customer service center that doesn’t frustrate you – design ensures that every experience or touch point you have as an enterprise is delightful, smooth, engaging, and builds your brand. Steve Jobs was asked how he was going to bring Apple back to its former glory when he returned as CEO – the answer he presented to the board : I’m going to use design. You want more customers, or happier employees, or a stronger brand – you use design. This is why McKinsey consultancy now has a design arm, or why Capital One partners acquired Adaptive Path. They understand the value and ROI design brings to their company. But like any merger, integration is the key.

But what does design actually mean?

Design isn’t just pretty pictures. It isn’t about explaining the difference between a UX and UI designer (which I will save for another post). Design is a philosophy that must be woven into the fabric of your company in order to grow and evolve your company into something greater. Design is an attitude – wanting to create beautiful, elegant products that people not only find useful, but love to use. Design can also impact beyond the physical (product design) through to the digital (interaction design) to the more ephemeral feeling of a smooth process (system design). It makes things better, stronger, elevated.

Now that you’re convinced, how do you get design into your company? There are a couple of simple steps that can bring a new mix of energy into your company to evolve your business plan.

Do a design prototype (you can find more information about that here). Doing beautiful visual concepts of a high value piece and then placing on a device gives the feel of the designed experience, and begins to change the conversation. Its low-cost, visionary, and excites people. Design is an opportunity to overcome preconceived roadblocks – it’s a problem solving discipline that reveals the real potential of your business.

Present the value of design to the executive team – A pretty bold move, but you must explain a hard return of putting design in place. Examples can include comparative results with a similar company that uses design, cost-benefit analysis, etc. Cultural change must come from the top so executives need to be bought-in.

Design externally first in order to create the change internally – what this means is that by redesigning highly visible touch-points such as your logo, brand, and website you can effectively rejuvenate the company and build excitement for design as part of the company. This can be done with an external vendor, but ensure that vendor is a partner who can train your team on how to use the design process to their advantage.

Either become, or hire, an executive dedicated to a design position – with an equal vote in the direction of the company. One mistake large companies make is have the Head of Design report to a CIO or a CMO, but this relegates design to only one section of the company, not across the entire organization. C level design officers make a statement not only to your customers and to your employees, but act as an an incentive to create the change required, rather than default to another skill-set (I highly recommend this book about the Design Executive) .

BlueMetal has gone through its own period of transformation, starting as a small technical architect-led firm to become a full service solution consultancy. Design motivated that change and we can talk with you in detail on how we did it. It wasn’t always easy, but the results have been outstanding for our business. We often partner with clients to not only execute on a highly visible project internally, but to help mentor that client on ways to get design to be part of their culture. For further details contact jhorgan@bluemetal.com or sales@bluemetal.com