Graphic designer drawing on graphics tablet at workplace

By Lilla Asir

Transforming the internal structures of companies by integrating design assets has been seen by many multinational corporations as a challenging process. Crafting services whether targeting external markets or in order to reformulate long-term internal strategies revolves around five essential main pillars every design manager should keep in mind.

 

In a market where the technical qualities of products are barely distinguishable, design can be the perfect differentiator. We live in artificial environments where our cities, tools and systems are a product of design processes affecting our everyday lives. In the midst of artificial intelligence, automation and machines, there is an ever-growing need for human creativity. Meanwhile, the highly qualified members of the knowledge-based economy, are increasingly more in demand of higher quality products in an ever competitive market with a bigger focus on the creative sector.

Design in this context no longer functions as a form but rather as a strategy. Transforming the internal structures of companies by integrating design assets has been seen by many multinational corporations as a challenging process that has generated an additional competitive advantage. Design management can’t work in isolated silos. Support within the organisation is essential for the design field’s methodologies to take shape effectively. There is a need for multidisciplinary collaboration with the various departments where the network generates the needed infrastructure, tools and information necessary to sustain the whole ecosystem. Tolerance, liberal receptive communities and technology are essential in the rise of creativity on a national as well as a corporate level. Creating the right environments for innovation where the members of the company are capable of adapting as a tool for collective action while preserving individuality is crucial. Whether design is used strategically or not it seems to be determined by three main factors:

1. The presence of a sponsor among senior management (such as the CEO/founder)

2. The role of the Design Manager/Director is crucial, especially when leadership support is lacking, as he/she must both influence and educate decision-makers about design.

3. Review and documentation of successes, especially when design has been capable of reflecting and strengthening the company’s brand(s).

 

Design management can’t work in isolated silos. Support within the organisation is essential for the design field’s methodologies to take shape effectively.

It’s important not to force design thinking in the wrong context. Knowing when to use design and how, is crucial. Understanding the role of designers and design managers while re-evaluating their processes can help leverage the team’s performance. Designers apart from being technical specialists with functional expertise, a lot of the times as part of cross functional teams, can bring shifting new perspectives to the table. Engineers for example, tend to focus on the technicalities of networks, the infrastructure and wireframes. Designers on the other hand, tend to reshape the balance by focussing on the end users, seeing things from the customer’s perspective while designing touchpoints. Crafting a service for the market for instance may involve similar methodologies when compared to creating an internal corporate workflow. Creating and scaling services can feel overwhelming but by understanding the basic pillars that form the service design process, we can have a more structured approach. By improving our offering over the various touchpoints we can maintain a competitive advantage having a lasting return on investment. Service design is evidence-based, holistic, co-creative and user-centred.

A service involves various pillars, which may seem evident at first. When creating services, we tend to underestimate the power of structuring the workflow around these elements.

The world in the digital age has turned into a structure that lacks a clearly-defined shape or form, time and space diffused, previously incompatible states of being turned into one: self-actualisation and a strong sense of virtual community, individuality and intense form of collectivity. We can access everything, anytime, anywhere being omnipresent, omniscient at the verge of being omnipotent. With the intense need to control the digital realm and with the arising challenges of GDPR, there is a strong need to regain our roots in the physical world, gain real experiences, and see the bigger picture. Creating customer-centric solutions with increased restrictions on our collected data can turn such endeavours into an even more creative process. In the midst of all these contradictions, there is still space for an effective form of collective brainstorming and collaborative co-creation. This intense form of self-empowerment turns everyday users into efficient producers.

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Actors

Exploring the various research techniques offered by design-led innovation from motivation matrices, to personas, mindmaps, mood boards and storyboards can always give new insight.

It is important to map the various stakeholders, as usually there is not one set of customer type but a chain of buyers, re-sellers, users and influencers. Although these groups might overlap, buyers in some cases might not be end-users per se. It is also important to note that we shouldn’t just consider the tight boundaries of the customer sectors we are currently competing on. Stakeholder maps can help map the various actors we need to follow closely. Design, offering a set of anthropological tools, from observation methods, surveys, interview techniques and mapping techniques can help gather a lot of information incorporating technology into the process. We should analyse the demands and needs of non-customers also exchanging insight with lost customers, expanding our overview of potential offerings breaking into exciting blue oceans. Understanding the concerns of users on the boundary of customer vs. non-customers having only seldom interactions with our products can give great insight on the limitations of our services. By analysing complementary services and their users, we can look past current demands and customer bases, getting inspired from the expansion of opportunities. Actors aren’t limited to our users. It is also important to take note of the various partners and stakeholders in the back-end and front-end departments affecting the processes that precede an actual “transaction”. Exploring the various research techniques offered by design-led innovation from motivation matrices, to personas, mind maps, mood boards and storyboards can always give new insight. It is very important to interact as much as possible making use of behavioural insight, as mapping actors is hugely related to the human factor.

 

Touchpoints

By re-evaluating pain-points throughout the various interactions, researching the causes behind roadblocks, the interrelation between the various actors can be re-designed. Customer journeys guiding us through the path of a potential user before, during and after meeting our products and services can help understand the larger contexts in which our company operates. Business blueprints can help map the business in the back-end and front-end, redefining our various internal and external processes. Understanding the culture, the habits and trends, the effect of marketing and advertising on biases can be integrated into the process at this point.

 

Needs

By mapping the various actors and their journeys throughout the process, understanding the bigger context, we can look beyond existing demands and needs. Thoroughly understanding the expectations along with the deficiencies in the network of stakeholders can help highlight the real problems bubbling under the surface in need of urgent solving. Analysing trends (on a micro and macro level) affecting the market and the industry, tracking complementary products and services, along with behavioural patterns and technological insights can help us think more creatively about arising needs in the market. It is not enough to focus on analysing the competition or current customers, it is always efficient to widen the scope of the research to include non-customers.

 

Specific offerings

Ideas and creativity are the most important building blocks of modern economies, investing time, resources and effort into implementing them is crucial for innovation to lead the way to customer-centred problem solving.

Ideas and creativity are the most important building blocks of modern economies, investing time, resources and effort into implementing them is crucial for innovation to lead the way to customer-centred problem solving. By constantly testing and reiterating products, we can better perfect our work leading to a major change in the quality of life we can provide. By connecting the digital with the real physical experiences, the lifecycle of an idea can go a long way. Perfecting our offering requires lots of training. We need to educate our teams and make sure the flow of information in the company leads to the right milieu for collaborative co-creation, effective brainstorming and a fruitful implementation in tandem with the right partners. Communication is key throughout the process. Turning our research outside-in and constantly re-evaluating our internal structures in response to the demands and needs of the market leads to the evolution of our ability to come up with even more creative solutions. By better understanding our potential, we can craft better missions, visions, internal strategies and ultimately offerings to solve customer problems.

 

Experiences

Designers are increasingly working on creating value not just in terms of profit but in terms of processes that involve sustainability, transformation design, mobility, social good, integration and ownership. Shaping innovation not just when it comes to the output we create but also in terms of the systems, structures, networks and strategies we are bound by.

The experiences we create can lead to added value across generations, cultures and social classes. Do we want to create engaging micro-moments, or fully transform generational gaps over a decade? Are we bound by the rules of a certain culture or can we overcome cultural restraints blending new behavioural patterns learnt through years of experimentation? Do we plan to influence green projects or advocate our brand to more technology-oriented endeavours? Focus on the human factor or tip the balance towards artificial intelligence? And in case we choose, how does that affect our customer base?  

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About the Author

Lilla Asir is the founder of Emeraldaline with a Masters in Design Management, a Former Head of Design at one of PRGN’s leading Communication Agencies and a KPMG alumnus.

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