Sales & Marketing

Great design isn't just pleasant, it's a business imperative

6 min read

04 March 2019

Designing your products or services shouldn't be some half-baked afterthought. In fact, it must be conceptualised and tracked from start to finish and involve the sign-off the entire team. Why? Because customers will only have faith in a brand if they believe in its storytelling, this starts with devising a solid, impactful and business-savvy design right from the start.

Design isn’t just about making things ‘look pretty’. Look at fast-growing consumer names like Dollar Shave Club, skincare brand Glossier or Heist Tights. Design has formed the core of their entire approach to the customer experience.

However, whether for physical products or services, design has become far too siloed and isolated within a lot of businesses. Not only that, it’s not seen as a concern for senior management. And that’s the mistake.

In a perfect world, design should be a C-suite consideration for every brand, big and small. The end-to-end design and experience of your brand should be tracked and managed at the highest level, in the same way as finance and operations. Why? Because when it is, it can dramatically boost both performance and profits – look at the Googles and Nikes of the world.

Design is perception is customer experience

This is reinforced by a recent McKinsey study, The business value of design. Ranking companies by their design credentials, McKinsey discovered those with stronger design performed better overall. Over five years the top quartile of brands secured 32% more revenue growth than competitors and 56% more in total returns to shareholders.

But this isn’t just an issue for global giants. Nobody can afford to cut designers out of the loop

An entrepreneurial brand operating in silos won’t reach its full potential. They’ll never do what they could be capable of because true design thinking means collaborating across all departments.

“Remember, brands aren’t what you tell consumers they are – they’re formed from people’s perceptions. They’re built on everything from your logo to your product, your PR to customer service – it’s all intrinsically linked, all affirming what the brand stands for to customers.”

It’s as important to put customers first as it is to balance who you are as a company. This lies at the very core of the design process. Understanding design thinking is, therefore, everyone’s responsibility, because it permeates every facet of the business. Everyone needs to be on the same page.

Design and customer experience should be tackled hand in hand

Delivering your company’s distinctive feel and identity across every possible touchpoint, so the end-to-end experience is a complete reflection of the brand.

“If design can’t communicate how you’d like to be perceived, it fails.”

Customer perceptions are everything, whether for multinationals or scaling businesses.

After all, would you trust the strategic advice of any professional services brand that has a chaotic website or uses Comic Sans?

This stuff has a huge impact on where people take their custom, so consider what your brand values should be and what makes customers engage. Think about it from the perspective of a private healthcare provider, for example the design and feel should be trustworthy, knowledgeable, inviting, empathetic.

That’s what you want from a brand that’s potentially saving your life, and it’s not just about the website interface. Again, it’s the end-to-end experience and design of the brand – customer service, the doctors’ approach and so on.

We live in the call-out generation

Remember that people will let you know, through a whole host of social media platforms, exactly what they think of your brand. Sometimes politely, sometimes… not so much. If lots of them are saying the same thing, you need to listen – and change.

Good design helps people navigate busy airports; bad design has guests thinking the fancy hotel tap is a piece of sculpture. Bad design hinders sales, so design and customer experience should always be part of the same conversation.

Design still demands analytical rigour

Quantitative measurement isn’t impossible, as the McKinsey report showed. So how can businesses implement better design practice in 2019 and beyond?

● Involve the design team from much earlier on – My team and I are often involved in new business pitches, so we get a feel for the brand well before they’re on board.

● Encourage multiple departments to collaborate – Branding has to be 100%, from strategy to data to design. The C-Suite should be involved, yes, but not exclusively. Everyone plays their part.

● Don’t start with the thinking, then make it ‘look nice’ afterwards. You’re doing the design – and the thinking – a disservice.

So how about this year your business puts design first? You owe it to your customers and yourself.