“Design” is probably too big a word. It comprises too many ideas, disciplines, and people to be a meaningful word on its own. For most of my life, “design” was something that companies farmed out to an ad agency or marketing consultant. But, lo! That paradigm is shifting! A recent study from the Design Management Institute (DMI) illustrates that “design-driven businesses” are outperforming the S&P 500—a stock market index of 500 large publicly traded companies—by an astounding 228% over the last decade. Corporations are catching up to this startling fact––and many are thus placing designers into the driver’s seat. For example, General Motors and IBM just launched design centers (here in Austin, TX) in order to optimize the user experience throughout research and development and product design. Many companies are also using designers to invent new channels of business altogether.

Unpacking the word “Design”

Design doesn’t just mean making something look sexy. It is the science and the art together, the beauty and the data. It is focusing on user needs and their top tasks and making sure that the design fosters those ideals. Great design is creating a system whereas your customers can do exactly what they want and nothing they don’t. It removes friction, it empowers users, and it delights them. It also creates amazing customer retention. When you’re not frustrating your customer, why would they leave? We need businesses to start thinking more about the lifetime value of their customers to create that urgency around the importance of design. It should be at the forefront of C-Level executives mindsets, well at least those that like profit, and how it poises companies to win and win BIG!

How the DMI model works

Simply put: promote designers to positions of authority and autonomy. The DMI report explains:

  • Design should be embedded within the company’s organizational structure
  • Design leadership should be present at senior and divisional levels
  • There must be a senior-level commitment to design’s use as an innovation resource and a force for positive change.

How can your company capitalize on this trend?

If you don’t have the internal user experience design resources––or aren’t ready to invest in them yet––you should partner with a design agency. The key word being “partner.” You want design experts who, though they’re a third-party vendor, behave like members of your team. At Martin Merida Design, every project begins with Discovery, during which we help you identify what you’re good at, what you’re not, what you think of your company, and what your customers think of you. Then––using our mystical design prowess––we craft a funnel for those thoughts and their correlating lines of business. In other words, we help design not only websites and applications but modes of operation and new ways of approaching your day-to-day work. That’s one reason we love digital technology: it’s a great vehicle to uncover, explore, and question an organization’s status quo––and sketch a map to a bright new future. You feel like you have a very good grasp on what your company does. You’re certain you know what you’re main selling point is. You know what your customers are searching for. But then you start the website design process––which involves thinking in (sometimes painstaking) detail about your purpose, your users, and your approach to work––and you quickly realize that you didn’t know as much (or as clearly) as you guessed. You learn that a slight shift in keyword search is directing hundreds or thousands of users away from your site. You realize that a few of your business units aren’t justifying the investment you’re making in them online. Sometimes, you change how you work because you changed how you talk about your work online. In this sense, a website redesign isn’t a website redesign. It’s a cold splash of water to the face.

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