Both data and design are increasingly being used within organisations to innovate and improve. Large amounts of data are being used to make important decisions, with the help of new technology like artificial intelligence to collect the necessary data. The use of design and creativity has also been implemented, first by some big brands and followed by smaller companies, especially to help innovate products and services. However, often data and design are utilised separately, instead of combining them to benefit even more. Using both data and design can give organisations the ability to create user-focused products and to improve their processes.

McKinsey & Company has observed a performance increase of 10 to 30 percent for companies that combine data and design to create business solutions and improve processes. To be able to do this, companies need to know how to effectively weave data and design together to make both elements work for them. There are some key changes that organisations need to make if they want to make use of both design and data for product and process innovation.

Integrating Design and Data

One of the most important things for successfully using design within a company is to focus on integrating it throughout the company. Rather than having separate design teams and creative departments, design should be integrated across the organisation. This can be achieved by combining design experts with data experts, who can work together and alongside each other. This might mean working on projects together but can also include physically sharing an office space too.

Design experts can go to where data experts are, instead of being in their own separate units within different departments. Design and data staff might have managers who are in the same field as them, but their teams should also have a leader who is responsible for working on a particular problem. These teams help to bring data and design together and can become part of a development team to put a new business solution into place. Having both design and data experts working on the same teams means that companies can benefit from insights from people with different backgrounds and skill sets that a more narrowly focused team might miss.

These cross-discipline teams of people can also go beyond helping each other out. They can even lead to the learning of new skills, giving employees a more rounded set of skills and knowledge. Through knowledge sharing and training, data experts and design experts can learn more about each other’s areas of expertise. Data analysts can learn about how design research is carried out and design experts can learn to understand how data is collected and can provide useful insights. Methods such as workshops, job shadowing or training on the job can be used to ensure this sharing of knowledge and to improve communication and discussion between the two different disciplines.

Synchronizing Data and Design

Even when together in a team, data and design experts don’t always truly work together. They can end up doing different tasks separately and at different times instead of collaborating and contributing equally.

After finishing “their part” of the project, they might then move on to something else, especially when it comes to the work that design experts do. This can mean that projects are completed and solutions sought without looking at the wider picture and understanding the context. It’s important for both designers and data scientists to fully understand how to tackle a challenge. To do this, they need to know how it relates to a specific business process and how it fits into the company. They should even go further and consider how it relates to the industry and to society.

For a more coherent way of working that takes in the bigger picture, data and design experts to synchronize their contributions. Everyone should share their opinions and expertise throughout a project, instead of handing different parts of the project to different people when it seems appropriate. Data and design team members use their different skills, research methods and knowledge to shed light on all aspects of a project.

Working in this synchronized fashion can offer a variety of benefits. Being able to look at a problem with a broader perspective ensures that nothing is missed and that the real issues are identified. Working together, data and design people can “zoom out” and take a wider look at the whole company. Design experts can help to visualise the data and can root out the causes of the problems being faced. Teams can speed up their work and identify problems and their causes much faster than before.

Data and Design in Both Products and Processes

It’s also important for businesses to recognise that both design and data can be used to improve business processes, as well as to design and innovate products. Data is being used more to improve business processes but the potential for design to help is often still neglected. Combining both can create excellent results when improving or redesigning processes. Using both data and design to visualise a business process enables a business to see the bigger picture and understand how different processes are connected to each other. Design and data experts can work together and ensure communication with end users to better understand their motivations. They can both collect information in different ways to increase their understanding of business processes and how to improve them.

Design and data have risen in use in recent years, and digital companies in particular have been at the forefront of using design and data together. The sort of company that is most effective when trying to mix the two is those that are flexible and agile, and that take multidisciplinary approaches. Other organisations can have their work cut out for them to achieve the use of data and design in a way that will help them with innovating products and processes. It’s important to start bringing data and design experts together as soon as possible to have the most impact on a project.