What do Google, Apple and Airbnb all have in common? Well, apart from being the most recognizable companies in the world, all three are design-led organizations.
What does it mean to be a design-led company, exactly? Unfortunately, the answer is a little complicated, but at Ad Designpalooza, we chatted with design leader Kristian Andersen and got his expert insights.
Design is just a tool we use to harness creativity and creativity is the raw input of innovation. Hard stop, period.
Kristian is the co-founder and partner at High Alpha, a venture studio that conceives, launches and scales enterprise technology companies. He also founded Studio Science, a leading design and innovation consultancy that he sold in 2019.
Kristian knows a thing or two about design-led organizations, so keep reading to learn more about what it takes to become a design-driven company and how to tell if you’re in one.
Design-led organizations understand that design isn’t just about aesthetics or creating new products and services. Design is also not limited to a particular department or phase in the development process. According to Kristian, design-led organizations have an “intentionality around how experiences are designed” in all, or at least most, aspects of the business.
Design-led companies are also human-centered. They’re relentlessly focused on solving customer problems and giving their users what they really need, which helps them create better products, services and internal processes.
There’s a strong business case for fostering a design-driven culture within your organization. According to a McKinsey report, design-led companies increase their revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry counterparts.
If you’re not sure if your company fits the bill, Kristian offered the following guiding questions:
“Experiences are fundamentally about storytelling, which means that design is fundamentally about storytelling,” explains Kristian.
Take a company like Airbnb, for instance. When they first launched, their story was simple. Airbnb was a platform where people could find homestays for vacation rentals, and their website reflected that. Case in point: this 2011 version of the homepage, where the hero image of a group of people sharing a meal and the clear booking prompts tell visitors what this platform is all about.
Today, Airbnb has evolved beyond homestays – adding new features like experiences and with the pandemic, even online experiences. And as their story has evolved, so has their design. Now, their website features an illustration hero image featuring a man, child and dog exploring a forest, which evokes broader themes like adventure, curiosity, and playfulness.
Building a design-driven culture takes time, but there are some essential elements that all design-led organizations share.
Kristian also strongly advocates for companies to have some type of ‘head of design’ role that oversees all design in the company, from brand communications to marketing, events, and digital product and service design. This role can help ensure that all design work adheres to an overarching design vision and language and maintain consistency across all channels and departments.
Did you know that some of the most successful companies in the world are design-driven brands? Here’s a list of a few popular design-driven companies and their design philosophies.
Kristian Andersen, Partner at High Alpha, knows a thing or two about design-led organizations. Hear about what he thinks it takes to become a design-led org, and how to tell if you're in one!
Design thinking is more than a process, department or role. It’s a philosophy that can (and arguably should) drive every action inside a company. It’s also centred around one critical stakeholder: your customer. Don’t assume that you know what they think or feel. Instead, gather insights, observe them, talk to them and use those insights to build products, experiences, and processes that will make their lives better.
If you’re looking for strategic design support for your next marketing campaign, you should check out our concept creation services. Through this offer, we’ll work closely with your team to develop creative concepts that will drive growth for your brand and serve your customers needs and goals. From large 360 campaigns to bespoke content solutions, our creative team can handle it all and is always available to support you.
Cassandra King is Superside's Head of Content & Community. She’s a road trip aficionado, advocate for all things glitter, and can usually be found with a camera (or snacks) in hand. Find her on IG @casssandra.king.
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