Do you have ‘design-led’ or ‘design-fed’ clients

What is the difference and why should we care; as long as we get design into the company?

This was answered by Ryan Hart, principal analyst at Forrester, one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world. Ryan was talking recently at the Forrester CX Forum in Sydney.

According to Ryan the difference is that a design-led business has a ‘ubiquitous design thinking mindset’ while the ‘design-fed’ business merely uses design to create new products and services.

A company that isn’t design-led is design-fed. Essentially, you have a design department in your company that is feeding into lines of business throughout your company. You don’t have to look any further than Japan to find design-fed companies, Ryan said.

“Sharp, for example, is a company that embodies this zombie company, which a big problem that they are facing now in Japan.”

Ryan makes the point that for so long, Sharp led with technology.

“They didn’t lead with the customer. The customer was going one direction and they took technology in another direction.”

He also pointed out that Panasonic and Toshiba are also on life support now, barely making ends meet and very close to going bankrupt.

He identified the product development cycle as the issue. By the time the company had developed new products, all based on initial customer research, the customer had moved on.

What makes a design-led company

Ryan outlined a number of operating principles for a design-led company.

“Design-led companies take it a step further: They use the word design, the language of design within the organisation, to actually coalesce all of the employees and everyone around the idea that we are designing incredibly beautiful products that customers love,” he said. “And design is a language we use to express that, and everyone rallies around.”

This tallies with research Carol Mackay and I have been doing. In an Australian first we have developed a Design Maturity Index that shows which organisations are design-led. The research is in the final stage of reporting back to the nine organisations and their designers.

The overwhelming result is that the design-led (high scoring in design maturity) organisations have developed a ‘ubiquitous design thinking mindset’.

The reason we should care about this?

The research shows that there is double the work for designers in design-led companies.

Contact Greg if you would like to know more about design maturity and identifying design-led businesses.


Got a question? Want to share your point of view? Please feel free to email me.

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