What lies behind great companies who have achieved success? How do they differentiate from competitors? Moreover, how can you use design to improve your own business and build your brand?
It's in the numbers
In technology today it’s tempting to believe that what’s important are the intangible elements of your product but at Apple, Steve Jobs proved the market that design is absolutely crucial. He has shown that the beauty and functionality of your product matter as much as when trying to present new concepts and ideas. We all know what bad design looks like ‘’ugly, unsellable, unpractical’’ but good design can push the boundaries of impossible. In 2007 Apple spent 20% more time on design than his competitors. In the last years, big companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Google have expanded their design department by 65%.
Here are the statistics of 6 companies and their designer to developers ratio. We think the ratio will become even more balanced as companies realize they cannot distinguish themselves by the functionality of their products only.
This shows design has reached a new level of importance and its not just a trendy word. A lot of companies or people can develop apps or products but the attention is on details, aesthetics, feeling, innovation, the value they bring to the customers.
Moreover, according to a survey by Design Council, research shows that 22% of the UK businesses say that design is a central element to their strategy, and a further 20% say that design is an integral part of development work. The British lead the Northern European countries in the strategic use of design, ahead of Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The research shows a strong connection between companies who innovate and use design. It also shows how the usage of design increases turnovers for companies and how the lack of good design has a bad influence on it.
How Dyson did it
James Dyson started his company in 1987 based on the dream of innovating the vacuum cleaners market after being frustrated by the weak power the traditional vacuum cleaner made use of. Having had a background in engineering and design, he managed to understand what the customers wanted: innovation, easy to use, aesthetic and impressive. After 5 years and 5000 prototypes, he managed to revolutionize how people use and think of such devices during modern times. Now Dyson has over 12000 employees and annual profits of more than £630 billion. The company broke through and now it’s a competitor in the robotics and electric vehicles market.
What you should take into account
According to Leading business by design, a research experiment organized by Design Council, WBS and Creative Board Room, there are 8 recommendations on how to maximize the impact of design :
1. Don’t limit the context in which design can operate
Design is not only used for premium products and goods. It can be used to differentiate any kind of product and service and to bring value to customers. Companies should use design to stand out from their competition.
2. Use design to differentiate
Design can be a good differentiator when used to solve customers’ problems. Therefore, research suggests that in the ideation phase of a product should focus on the NEEDS of the customer rather than what the competitors offer.
3. Integrate design and branding
It is important that the design of your product embodies the same principles and ethos as your brand in order to build credibility and trust.
4. Introduce a design process
The design process should be clearly structured and well understood by all relevant parties to ensure consistency of output.
5. Trust and support your design talent
Successful design and innovation often entail making brave decisions. Trust in the relationship between top management and design is therefore fundamental.
6. Embed design in your organizational culture
In its broadest meaning, design is about solving customers’ problems. Therefore, a focus on problem-solving on customers should be embedded in the culture of the company.
7. Design your work environment
Design is about process, customers and work environment. It should provide clarity and consistency in the development of services and products; design should also be present in the work environment, enabling collaboration, exchanges of ideas and teamwork.
8. Don’t let the designer’s role be a straitjacket
In order for a strategic design to work, designers must be flexible and capable of seeing different perspectives, knowing multiple languages and understanding the commercial considerations. There is more to a good designer than just talent.
Design is a crucial part of your strategy and positioning within the market. Without it, products with the same features and technologies would not be suitable for competition, they would be generic. As the CEO of Pentland Brands plc puts it
"Design is everything because without it we have no business. There is intense competition, and anybody can design a decent product. They can’t all design outstanding products. So, design is the differentiator."