The conversation starts with design
Taking the role of Chair of the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards this year has been an opportunity to take stock and reflect on how important design is to the organisations that entered and how that has changed during my career in design.
I have always argued that design is not an option. There is always design; just not always done consciously or with intent. Almost every decision is a design decision in that it has impact on the person we are designing for or the people inside the organisation, not just the package, product or app.
The overriding impression when looking through the Design Effectiveness Awards winning entries is that every one of the applicants is being conscious of the decisions they make. They have realised that considering what they do, who it is for and taking deliberate actions to create impact, are essential to achieving their objectives. And it’s this conscious awareness of design at the heart of how they think that’s led to these businesses standing out in crowded markets, driving engagement through enhanced or simplified user experiences, reacting to the changing and future needs of customers.
Although there are still those who see design as something to layer on afterwards (and in doing so, miss the opportunity to deliver the true breadth and depth of impact of which design is capable), increasingly we see a shift in the positioning of design inside business and beyond. Leaders can see the impact of understanding what triggers impact and success, of experimenting and going further to deliver delight, surprise or even just simply working as you want something to work.
The start-up phenomenon of the last two decades has had an impact on how we see design. A host of exciting new products and services, often with designers as their founders, have emerged and disrupted more traditional businesses. For many new companies, their launch pad and energy are rooted in a desire to reshape the world as it should be, not in how it has evolved. Legacy technology, traditional market thinking and simple lack of imagination have held both business and public sector thinking back.
But a start-up has a blank piece of paper, often accompanied by real insight into the frustrations of using existing ways of doing things. Banks are the obvious example. Our major banks still hold most customers, but they are being forced to innovate and move fast by a host of new banks who start with design. Banks who are prioritising design from their outset to smash conventions, to focus on simplicity (which is never simple to deliver) and to identify what people wanted, but could never previously get.
Innovation has been top of mind for a long time, but the relationship with design has not always been strong. The drive to digital and social media bring great advantages to customers and marketeers, from better government services to youth engagement of your brand. But it’s taken a while to see that great innovation needs great design to speed adoption and make new ideas relevant.
But now we can see the two marching in step. The best performers are those where great design has not just communicated a product or service. The winners take design to their heart and find the insights that will drive creativity that leads to a step change, not just a new lick of paint. Whether a major brand, a charity or an infrastructure project, we can see how design is the start of the conversation. That conversation is less ‘what do we have?’ but more ‘what should we have?’. How can we make those conscious decisions that make the most of our resources and efforts and deliver real impact?
The DBA Design Effectiveness Awards are more than just a celebration of a huge range of proven and often incredible examples of the impact of design. They are becoming a record of how design is taking the centre stage, filing the first page and driving the strategy and delivery of everything from packaging, customer experience or operating system.
I’ve spent much of my career evangelising, coercing and persuading organisations to give design a chance to show the impact it will have. The wonderful feeling in seeing this year’s awards is that design has made it; it is front and centre, embraced throughout organisations and a vital part of their success. Of course this is not yet true for all business, but it is true for the Design Effectiveness Award winners – their conversation started, and ended, happily, with design.
DBA Design Effectiveness Awards 2019 | Shortlist and Ceremony | Early-bird tickets available until 12 April
Entered jointly by client and designer, and rigorously judged by industry leaders in three rounds of judging, the Awards represent independent and authoritative recognition of the unambiguous value of design.
This year – we saw the impact of design across the spectrum.
View the shortlist of 59 winning entries here.
The shortlisted entries will find out if they have won Gold, Silver or Bronze at the black-tie award ceremony and dinner at the Royal Horticultural Halls on the 12 of June.
Book your tickets for the 2019 Design Effectiveness Awards ceremony here and find out what a difference design makes.
Photo by Tom Hill on Unsplash
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash