Friday, 28 December 2007

Clever by Design

How designers add value to anything.

Designers today are expected to play a vital role in the business strategy of all major brands. There has never been a greater need for creativity in every business and every service; a very exciting time for designers who have never been more important in creating the fabric for tomorrow’s brands.

Can designers really add value to businesses, that have depended on a certain skill types, specifically the suits for a very long time: Can companies really depend on designers for some serious thinking, the core of any business or brand, “the strategy”? Can they depend on the lateral thinking, colourful, creative types to provide an invaluable dimension to their business? Or are "creativity" and "innovation" industry jargons that complicate things further?

In truth businesses today are trying to simplify the technology and information overload. Simplification today means clarity; clarity and focus lead to success. It’s no wonder that
“Simplicity” in itself has become a rare and most sought after commodity in any business. Designers are the masters of “information deconstruction” they tend to extract the most important information first and put it to action. They think in a non linear pattern and are used to working backwards. At times, can even jump in, in the middle of a project and are able to connect the dots that are needed to solve the problem.

One of the greatest examples of a brand that benefited from involving designers at every stage is Starbucks. We all know that Starbucks positioned itself on the idea of providing a community space to its consumers, a value proposition that was unrivaled at the time; an idea that revolutionised branding and environments. What we also know is that if there is any brand that most effectively utilised designers from conception to delivery, is Starbucks. Overtime it has developed a strategy based on a consistent set of brand values, and uses design as a way of aiding the delivery of a consistent service experience to its customers.

Tim Brown, the head of Ideo says, you need to learn to think like a designer if you want to do a better job of developing, communicating, and pursuing a strategy, in an article in Fast Company Magazine. “People need to have a visceral understanding -- an image in their minds -- of why you've chosen a certain strategy and what you're attempting to create with it. Design is ideally suited to this endeavor. Because it's pictorial, design describes the world in a way that's not open to many interpretations. Designers, by making a film, scenario, or prototype, can help people emotionally experience the thing that the strategy seeks to describe”, adds Tim Brown.

I can support this with evidence. When I was in the midst of my MA in Design Studies at Central Saint Martins, we were given a task of identifying a gap in the market, a trend that can be named and a service or a brand developed on that premise. We were a group of seven creatives including designers, strategists, and business managers. The group was predominantly female and we identified a trend in over 30 working single women who prefer to remain unattached. We developed a service idea based on this insight and instead of making long boring PowerPoint slides to show our findings, we made a short comical clip to share the insight. What could be more convincing than humour and wit based on an experience that the target market could relate to? A story line was developed in an urban setting and the characters were lipstick, mobile phone and a sandal (the inseparables of an urban diva). The perspective service was named “GUYSHA” from geisha. Soon after which “The Memoirs of Geisha” film came out and our insight never seemed more relevant. It was a simple way of showing something that could have otherwise fallen prey to long boring research and strategy presentation. This way, everyone got it and our insight was an instant hit with the crowd.

Click on the play button to view the short clip.

My next blog will be an extension to this post, a collection of thoughts on designers who have continually demonstrated their value in society by their simple and clever thinking approach.

Posted by Nadia Aamer
Printpixels
MA Design Studies
Central Saint Martins

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