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Well we would say that, wouldnt we? We are a design company. In my two and a half years in business, I have met marketing people, lawyers, accountants, HR people, branding experts, IT people etc, etc. Each of whom generally tend to say that the service that they offer is fundamental to a company’s success. Each and every one of them can justifiably say so. It is important that a company’s promotional materials look good, that they offer the correct customer service, that they are on top of the financial aspects. Well I would argue that they are all important. But I firmly believe that the intellectual facet of design is central to any business’s success.
Design is not about making your business cards look pretty. Real design is about so much more, it is about generating ideas. Ideas that will make products or services better for people, be it in terms of function, performance or aesthetics. These ideas will propel a company forward and inspire those in the organisation. Marketing and brand communication are all important but mere exponents of this creativity. The companies that truly succeed today have real design at the heart of their operations.
“Design is the fundamental soul of a man made creation”
It was Steve Jobs, legendary CEO of Apple who said this. Apple, the most succesful technology company in the world.
The reason I believe design is so fundamental to a company’s success is that designers are driven by passion. They are dreamers and have a vision for a better world – be it a prettier one or a more resourceful one or a greener one. Their passions and motives are about more than the company’s short term bottom line, it is about doing great things. And this vision or this ability to narrate is not the sole propriety of designers, it can be led by anyone. The term ‘designer’ per se can be as easily applicable to a company’s CEO as it can to the head of the graphic design division. It is just that this creative spirit is a more natural fit for designers.
It is these people of vision that endow a company with a culture. All great companies have cultures, they are living entities that stand for something. The reason design is so important is that once a company understands what its about, it can then creatively build its culture outwardly from this. This is what is meant when we speak of ‘strength of the brand,’ this is not a discussion of aesthetics but a more intellectual argument. Indeed, once the truth has been established, a context understood, a narrative developed. Companies can then use this narrative in every part of their business. It can shape every aspect of their development.
It is very easy for designers to speak about Apple or Audi when speaking about great design led companies. But I am going to use the example of ‘Innocent’ drinks. This is a great company, they have a culture, a narrative. ‘Pure, fresh and unadulterated.’ Everything from the stories of the two entrepeneurs who created the company to the company website, to the way they sell their products to ‘Fruit Towers’ help build an incredibly strong company. It is this sense of being that is allowing them to easily expand into new product areas such as yoghurts and veg pots. They have an inherent and easily comprehensible vision. This vision shapes all parts of their business, what’s more, it allows Innocent to inspire their own staff. Getting the best out of human capital – possibly the most important aspect of any company’s success. There is no aspect of a company’s model that will not be enhanced by design, choosing which products to develop, how to innovate, how to select staff, how to train staff, how to market the products, how to sell them, which events to promote.
Great design is what drives just about every great company with a great culture, think about it… Ferrari, Audi, Apple, Facebook, Google, IKEA. Its a long list. More than just being visually effective. Design is about seeing the bigger picture. It is the heartbeat of any succesful company and I would recommend any company big or small to think carefully about their narratives as the world is changing so quickly and those with the weakest philosophical arguments are those in the biggest danger.