Why use design?

UK businesses work within a global economy where it is difficult to compete in many areas on cost, and technology innovation is no longer a guarantee for success.

Design can be a key differentiator for businesses, effecting the desirability, usability and feasibility of systems, services and products.

"The fundamental differentiator in my mind between success and failure is identifying the [customer's] problem."  [Product manager, Gripple]

Design is a powerful tool when used effectively throughout an entire R&D project – from concept to commercialization – especially when embedded early in a project's life cycle. It can lead to time and cost savings and to better project outcomes. It is clear from this video that design adds value.

The UK is in the premier league of creativity and design. It provides a huge opportunity for businesses to realise greater returns through using design in innovation. Working with designers early in the innovation process to utilise their problem solving skills can help businesses and organisations identify genuine economic, social and environmental opportunities and better respond to "market pull" rather than being driven by "technology-push".

As a contribution to the UK economy, shares in design-led businesses have outperformed the FTSE 100 by more than 200% over the past decade. The UK government have estimated the average return on investment for every £1 invested in design by business being over £25. Design Council research has demonstrate that every £1 spent on design gives over £20 in increased revenue, £4 increased profit and £5 in increased exports.


Design is not only how to make something look good.

Design is a way of thinking. The Design Council view design as ‘making things work better for people'. It is about bringing a people-centred approach to technology-based innovation which uses proven and replicable methods for solving problems and discovering new opportunities through creative enquiry.

Design thinking is asking the right questions and shaping the conversations to innovate and improve a product, service or strategy. IDEO is one of the world's leading service and strategic design agencies. Tim Brown, their President and CEO, notes that:

"Thinking like a designer can transform the way organisations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, or ‘design thinking', brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren't trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges."


Benefits to business

If design is used earlier in the innovation process organisations are more likely to realise the following benefits.

•    Design is a glue for collaboration: Design can be used as a fundamental facilitator for collaboration within the innovation process

"This more collaborative approach allowed a much faster time to market. The design guys very quickly understood what the customer wanted, and they were very quickly able to take that customer need and turn it into a very usable product" (Digital Director, Barclays, Leading Business by Design, Design Council)."

•    Design simplifies complexity: ‘Design thinking' can be used to break down complex concepts, processes and issues into core components, and to communicate them simply and clearly across stakeholders.

•    Design exposes the ‘right' problems: Working with designers to utilise their problem solving skills on broader challenges can help businesses and organisations identify genuine economic, social and environmental viable opportunities, rather than "solutions looking for a problem."

"It is fundamental [for our business success] to create
a service–oriented culture that focuses on people's wants and needs, rather than on the services / products themselves. (Head of Design, Virgin Atlantic. Leading Business by Design, Design Council)"

•    Design can reorient strategy, logistics and processes: Using design early in strategy and business development can act as a disruptive process for innovation within organisations and across sectors.

•    Design can reduce risk and attendant costs in the innovation process. Accelerating innovation and devising clearer routes to identified need in the market helps reduce the cost of development


Useful links

There are a wealth of case studies and reports on value from the Design Council.

How design adds value

Compendium data on the UK design economy

Business examples of strategic design 


Upcoming events

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