Four powers of design

Manufacturers and service providers are changing the way they think. They don’t just produce goods and services; they aim to give their customers an experience. They are selling an enjoyable, productive outcome.

Selling an outcome is not the same as selling a product or service; it’s a totally different offer. The client’s business model has to change to become outcomes focussed by guaranteeing radically higher performance. The delivery process needs to change because the client is now responsible for not only producing the product or service but also the outcome. This shift is not something a client can do alone. The What Clients Think research shows clients want help to make this change. This recognition places them at level three or four of the design ladder. They want designers to help them focus on outcomes and gain competitive advantage, improve their product or service development, find new opportunities and have the right social impact. A big call but it’s within the four powers that design has.

It needs the four powers of design

Design for competitive advantage: Design gives competitive advantage in the market through customer experience, brand equity, customer loyalty or price premium.

Design in business: Design improves new product development (time to market, product refinement using visualisation skills); design builds a modular architecture of product lines, user-oriented innovation models, and fuzzy-front-end design thinking.

Design for new business: Design creates new business opportunities; improves the client’s appetite for change and innovation. It helps the client better understand their business and marketplace. Design increases sales and better margins, more brand value, greater market share, better return on investment (ROI).

Design for social impact: design improves society at large (inclusive design, sustainable design). Design interrogates real-world systems—institutional, economic, social, political, interpersonal – defines opportunities for change that give voice to disenfranchised or marginalised.

Take away

If you are trying to get clients that fit in level three or four of the design ladder you need to examine how the four powers of design can be used to unpack their business and develop an outcomes based approach. Begin by questioning how you can design for clients to gain competitive advantage, improve their product or service development, find new opportunities and have the right social impact. The client pitch focuses on customer outcomes. How can I use design to improve customer satisfaction and gain competitive advantage; how can I use design to improve customer outcomes by getting a product or service to market quicker; how can I design to help the client understand customer needs and get into new markets and how can I design to improve customer satisfaction and lessen social impact?


Want more?

Here’s more information on side hustles:
1 Developing design maturity in clients
2 It’s time to become aware of the power of design
3 The power of design thinking

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Greg Branson

Design Business Council
Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.
Greg has developed a series of processes and tools to help designers manage their business better along with a series of workshops that show designers how to use these tools.

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