Well-designed products, services and experiences are vital for businesses that want to not just find but also maintain success. Strong designs can not only boost brands but they can become the brand too. We can all think of classic and iconic designs that not only look good but do what they’re designed for and do it well. Good design drives innovation and also helps businesses create a strong future. However, it’s not necessarily easy, and there are some important things to think about to ensure strong design.

When making design choices, turning design into business value is essential. McKinsey’s survey of more than 300 publicly-listed companies showed a strong correlation of design and business performance, with their top-ranked companies for designing improving their revenues and returns to shareholders faster than other businesses. However, many companies are failing to prioritise design in the way that they should be. There are some key areas that businesses need to focus on to improve their design.

The Importance of Leadership

As with many other things, leadership and management need to be priorities for design. The best-performing companies that focus on design are sure to pay attention to management and make sure that design is performing well. In many companies, design leaders don’t feel that they are prioritised or receive the attention that their work deserves. On important thing to note is that design needs to be recognised at the top management levels and not confined to middle management and lower. The customer’s needs and the design required to fulfil them need to be embedded at all levels of the company.

Managers need to be able to make decisions relating to design too. They should be able to make use of data to make objective decisions and to assess design in the same way that they would other parts of the business, such as costs, using pre-defined metrics. Metrics such as customer satisfaction can be used to judge the success of product design and these can be built into targets and measured using various tools. Having useful insights makes it easier for leaders to make smart choices and to see what is and isn’t working, and how designs might need to change.

Prioritising Customer Experience

Keeping the end user in mind is crucial when it comes to design, and companies need to think about the whole customer experience and journey. When it comes to design, thinking about individual products or services often no longer works. More and more customer experiences that connect different products and services are emerging. It’s important to collect customer insights and map customer journeys to help with creating design ideas. Businesses can create experiences by combining products and services that attract their customers’ attention at different stages in their journey. There are opportunities to include everything from social media connections to post-purchase follow-ups.

One thing that companies can do to grow their customer experiences is to explore opportunities for teaming up with other brands. They can take a look at their audience and the other products and services that they are likely to be drawn to. This helps to present possibilities for new experiences by combining complementary products and services. A brand that sells takeaway food might offer a subscription to a music or movie streaming service to help their customers craft the perfect night in. Connecting up services digitally is often a great way to create a seamless experience.

Design Throughout the Company

Keeping design to just one part of the company means that those responsible for design often aren’t involved enough in the creation of products and services or in the solving of problems. To avoid cutting off the design experts from the rest of the company, they need to be integrated throughout the rest of the company. When designers are out in the office intermingling with the other professionals, instead of confined to a single design studio, they can work better with others. They get to know the other important areas of the business and they have all of the knowledge that they need to do their jobs well.

Companies should be careful to look after their designers too, paying attention to their top talent and focusing on employee retention. It’s important to provide the right incentives for hard work, from bonuses to training and opportunities for career advancement. The working environment is important too, including what design teams are expected to work on. Designers want the opportunity to work on projects that they care about, to attend conferences and to keep growing their skills, knowledge and connections. Designers need to have the right tools and support to fulfil their roles.

Constant Testing

Businesses can use good design by making sure that it has the space to be tested and iterated with end users, helping to develop innovative products and services. The ability to continuously iterate new designs helps to develop products and services in a low-cost way, before creating the real thing. It reduces risks and helps to prevent the chance of things going wrong when it’s time to put a new product or service out on the market. Research on customers and competitors should be used to come up with new ideas for design, ensuring that the development of new products is informed.

The use of prototyping doesn’t have to be something that only takes place late in the process of developing a new product, service or experience. It can be useful much earlier on, and it can help to save time and money when used earlier too. Constant iteration and creating early prototypes, even sharing them when they are only basic and haven’t been developed much, helps to move towards the development of something new in a smarter way. Another important thing to keep in mind is that this iteration can continue beyond the launch of a product. Improvements can still be made and updates can be performed to keep the customer experience up to date.

Good design should be present throughout a company for a better chance at obtaining and maintaining success.