Investing in design – and design thinking – is one of the most important ways for businesses to navigate and succeed in an uncertain future. Even a reasonably small investment can bring rich and lasting rewards for companies and their stakeholders, helping them to remain relevant in a super-charged world.
Sally Eggeling, director at FleishmanHillard Fishburn, which has recently introduced their newly-established creative offering, Ensemble Studio, believes robust design is a business essential. "Good design establishes a bond," she says. "And design thinking has the power to spark ground-breaking creativity, drive authenticity and purpose, and boost reputation and value."
Indeed, a study by the management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company found companies that prioritised design grew revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice their industry peers' rate.
So, in what ways can design drive success and create a competitive advantage?
1 Design builds business momentum
It's not just about the look and feel of a product or a site; it is the totality of a brand. Design thinking helps because it is about client and agency working together, nurturing collaboration and challenging each other about the best way forward. That drives innovative thinking, fresh ideas, greater efficiency, and more opportunity.
In short, this means designing ways to make things better and more manageable, and that will exceed both employee and customer expectations. This in turn not only drives better engagement, but it also creates a business that is ahead of the pack and fit for the future.
2 Design connects
Good design facilitates relationships, helping to create, or maintain, a connection. Sometimes that's achieved through the brand experience. At others, it is about the clarity of an annual report or the weight of a social media campaign.
Whatever “it” is, the foundation of a relationship is a relevant and engaging conversation. It is a two-way process that relies on listening to what the audience is saying. In doing so, we create deeper connections that resonate from inside the heart of the business and echo all the way out to consumers.
It is important to remember how much customers – and staff – expect to experience a connected journey. Salesforce, the cloud-based software company, found that 70% of its customers believed interconnected processes, such as seamless handoffs or contextualised engagement based on previous interactions, were vital for winning new business.
3 Design engages
Despite the growing wealth of technological advancement, it is vital to remember we are all still human. That means designing for people, even if the interaction is with a bot, AI or VR.
There is plenty of incentive for those able to deliver the human touch. In its recent survey, Salesforce found personalised experiences drove customer loyalty. Some 70% of consumers said a company's understanding of their individual needs significantly impacted loyalty.
With an almost overwhelming volume of social content across multiple feeds, the human-centric design also allows us to help audiences pause for breath. And slowing scrolling thumbs gives us a chance for our message to make the impact we are after. There's beauty in the tangibility of investment in sound design; everyone can see the outputs.
4 Design on purpose
Companies today are expected to have a voice, but that voice needs to be consistent and based on a foundation of authenticity. Being found out; having a certain lack of authenticity revealed can lead to instant catastrophe in the social media age, where every consumer is a reviewer.
Design is the golden thread that holds everything together, that underpins authenticity and reinforces reputation. It plays a crucial role in bringing together the strategy and messaging, to align with the business ethos and purpose; the design is the glue that holds all of these elements together to create authentic and, crucially, engaging communications.
The right design ensures the tone of voice hits the right note, and a company is effectively represented. It ensures that audiences both hear and feel the messaging being conveyed.
5 Design for difference
Increasingly there is less and less differentiation in the options in front of business and consumers. The choice of which holiday package or car to choose, or business insurance to purchase, is more frequently made on which one appears to be more credible - or put another way, which one looks most convincing when it comes to design.
Anyone can test their alignment in product values and design choices by standing in a motorway service station trying to choose a bottle of spring water where you get ANY 2 FOR £2.50. There are innumerable examples like this. The consumer is reacting sub-consciously to a lot of conscious design effort.
A strong, considered design provides stand-out in a chaotic and competitive world and goes a long way to future-proofing your brand. As the Canadian graphic design guru, Robert Peters says: "Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future."
To find out more about how Ensemble Studio could help you unlock the value of design visit https://www.fhensemblestudio.com/.