Read on about design-led businessesMoving design from an expense to a revenue stream

That’s what design-led businesses do. They see design has a part to play in every part of their business and the actively apply it. They seek and look after customers who will gain them more customers.

In short, many businesses are now recognising that design can help them develop their business, their products, their services and their culture.

I was reminded of this recently in an email from Rolf Preston of Tangent Design. Rolf has been applying his design skills for clients for 32 years and recently decided to start a design-led business of his own. Enter Tuff Arse Camp Chairs. The email to Rolf talked about the design and build quality of his chairs. This is just one part of the email from a happy customer.

I pretty much looked at every possible style and brand available in Australia online and found myself coming back to Tuff Arse Chairs every time.

I watched Rolf build this business from the bottom (arse) up. Literally researching the materials and build quality that went into the chairs. The business has gone gang busters.

This is proof that designers are well suited for helping build a design-led business.

Q: So how do you approach a client about being design lead?

A: Don’t talk about design led.

The answer is a paradox; stop selling design!

Value chain not design

Start talking to the business owners about value chains, profit models, balanced scorecards, ROI. These are the areas that interest them because they directly relate to how they do business.

However what many clients are not yet recognising is that humanity centered design can be added to standard business practices to more quickly achieve their results. And who better than a designer to show them how to be humanity centered.

Many of the designers I talk to are still worried about all of the business language and the thinking behind it. They don’t know how to explain a value chain or how help a client a become design-led business. They don’t know how to take a clients’ balanced scorecard and add design to achieve better results. They don’t know how to use unpack the client’s business model and build design into it.

Design-led businesses are mature design users

The DBC conducted research to understand design-led businesses. We worked with ten design agencies and their clients; the clients were already design focused. What we found was business owners did not think about the designers tools or expertise; they saw only the results in specific areas. We used Michael E. Porter’s value chain analysis to talk to business owners in their language. We identified ten common activities in every business and worked out where, how and why value was being added. We then looked at the use of design in these activities.

All of this allowed us to identify design-led businesses and the elements where design added value.

This type of analysis will help you help your clients become design-led.

Contact Greg Branson if you would like to learn more developing design clients.


Want more?

Here’s more information on design maturity:

  1. The Business Model Canvas – here
  2. Understanding a client to develop new business
  3. How design mature are your clients.

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