Design is widely acknowledged as a source of value creation and innovation. But as the design concept is continuously expanded, it also becomes less clear. To make the value of design more transparent, we need to be more concrete about it.
There’s no shortage of reports and case examples illustrating how the design-driven approach can help build value for business, organizations and civic society – from physical products to services, or even organizations and business models.
That trend is both significant and very interesting. But it also makes it even more important to be able to demonstrate how design actually creates value – and not just in product development, where the object for design is usually something very tangible.
The value of design needs to be concrete
With still more actors talking about design in new and different ways, it obviously becomes more difficult to navigate the discourse and identify relevant value propositions.
According to Henrik Jeppesen, Founding Partner at Attention, it’s a challenge that design professionals will have to deal with very explicitly:
“We talk about designing everything at the moment, from buildings and haircuts to industrial pumps and airplanes. The concept of ‘design’ is becoming very broad and potentially very difficult for business managers to relate to. If we want to help them in that, we need to make design much more concrete”.
It’s up to the designer to explain the value
In order to achieve that, designers – whether employed or external suppliers – need to be a lot better at communicating clearly about design and the value it adds:
“What outcome can we expect? What’s the value – and the cost? How do we even get started, and how long does it take? That’s the kind of questions that companies need answers to. And we need to be able to provide those answers”, Henrik Jeppesen says.
With the design process’ inherent focus on understanding users and creating real solutions, there’s actually a good basis for doing that, Henrik Jeppesen explains: “The industrial design process is based on a rigorous analysis of markets, users, materials and so on. Most of that can be made very tangible and transparent”.
Less talking, more doing
The designers’ ability to explain the value of the design process is indispensable, though it’s not always enough. The discourse around design as a strategic business tool means that design practice is increasingly being squeezed into strategy schemes and management systems that don’t fit it well:
“Companies and their managers need to acknowledge that they may not have the necessary expertise to drive the design process themselves, and accept that it requires a different management-process”, Henrik Jeppesen explains.
If all the talk about design is to result in actual value, it’s imperative that it moves beyond talking: “It’s extremely important that design is strategically founded. But at the end of the day, design is about doing, about creating, and about results”.
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