Steve Jobs once famously said: “Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works.” Evidently, the company he established, Apple, worked (and still does) on this basic principle.
When design is an essential part of the business’ overall strategy, innovation becomes a natural next step. Companies that have understood the importance of design, be it Apple, Coca-Cola, IBM or Nike, have consistently outperformed competitors and stayed ahead in the innovation game.
Graphic design at the core
Perhaps because of the remarkable success of these design-led companies, organisations world over have woken up to the necessity of having a rock-solid design strategy in place. They now want to learn how to apply the principles of design both to the product/service and to the workplace. Simply put, organisations are beginning to think like designers and that cannot be anything but good news. In fact, many admit today that design thinking is at the very core of an effective business strategy and innovation development.
Experts believe design-thinking companies are usually more willing to engage; they are open to change and redesign and thus pioneer innovation. It is this ability that gives them a competitive edge.
What is design thinking?
Ultimately, design thinking can be applied anywhere -- to systems, protocols, customer experiences and even in management. It draws inspiration from every field imaginable -- logic to intuition to human psychology to engineering -- and explores possibilities of creation that will ultimately benefit the end user. It takes up complex issues and matches the designer's sensibility with what is technologically available to create viable business strategies and solutions.
Employing design for innovation
It is not unusual for us to read about new product introductions and how they failed after a while. Often, companies do not realise that products fail simply because of poor design. Product innovation does not come easy. It needs a multi-disciplinary approach that takes into consideration design-centric principles, technical excellence and human emotions.
Experts suggest certain sure-fire ways of using design to improve innovation. These include:
1. Get in all the stakeholders:
At the heart of a good design is acceptability. In today's competitive environment, it is important that every stakeholder, be it the sales teams, marketing teams, packaging suppliers, brand creators or customers, must have a clear understanding of what the design entails and how it will be eventually integrated with business/product.
2. Wholesome design:
Designing is not just about one particular designer's fancy. Nor can be a strict adherence to the CEO's desires. Designing has its own parameters, all of which have to be brought together in a smart and wholesome manner for it to guarantee true innovation.
3. Human-centred innovation
Design thinking is about engaging the customer. In fact, it minimizes the uncertainty that comes with the introduction of new products by bringing out prototypes that the customer can first use and test. Essentially, design thinking relies heavily on customer insights. And indeed, that ought to be the case as human-centred innovation begins with developing an understanding of customers' needs -- both spoken and unspoken.