Get Designers On Board, Not Boring Design

posted on 11th Jun 2018 by Gary Gleeson

Ideally a board should have a diversity of specialists such as finance, marketing, tech. But until more designers sit at the table, the business of design will not be taken seriously at the highest level. The same can be said for design businesses – small agencies should have business mentors, and larger agencies should have a board structure with business heads on it. 

The US seems to be leading the way when it comes to design-led thinking. The rise of the Chief Creative Officer (CCO) has grown rapidly in the past 12 months, with a number of global brands including Disney and Sony Entertainment creating this position, signaling a growing trend for putting design at the centre of a company’s brand strategy. Airbnb is co-founded by CEO, Brian Chesky. A graduate himself from Rhode Island School of Design, the hugely successful business was built on the fundamental principle that design should be at the core of all business thinking. Design is not an afterthought. It is generating real value for companies by differentiating services and products. It can help companies become more customer-centric, emotionally engaging with them across all touch points.

In the world of international property development, it’s easy to stick with what’s tried and tested. Estate agents sell with the same glossy brochures they’ve used for decades. Architects are often required to create safe options, what has worked before. But people have changed the way they interact with each other. They are now looking for more meaningful connections to place and people. New thinking is required to attract people and commerce in new ways. I recently attended a talk by Andrew Hoyne, an Australian designer, who is using the power of effective place making to transform communities. He works with clients to create a vision for what a place could be and renders them up in CAD long before there are any architects plans. “The traditional live/work/shop/play landscape has changed. What was the status quo is now stale, and the only way forward is to think differently. That’s why we’ve developed an approach we call ‘Place Visioning’ according to Hoyne, “Branding – specifically place branding – is multi-faceted, and multi-functional. It should reflect community spirit, create cohesion and instil pride. It should attract business and investment and, ultimately, improve economic performance.” Andrew wants to create places where you want to know your neighbour, not a place where you don’t want to make eye contact. By spending 5% extra on design he reckons he can get 15% better returns, which in a multi-million euro development can mean big profits.

According to the UK Design Council, “for every £1000 companies spend on advertising, £150-200 is usually spent on market research while £35-40 is spent on design. For most global branded companies such as Coke, Nike, Apple, P&G and Unilever, 80-85% of their market value can be attributed to their brand.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an event at Apple’s headquarters

I would hazard a guess that not one of the top 100 Irish companies have a designer on their board nor design at the core of their brand strategy. Now is the time for them to get an edge on their global competitors and hire that Chief Creative Officer so that design is engaged in at board level. This is a lesson that Apple have taught us and it looks set to become the first trillion dollar company in the near future.

Gary Gleeson, Partner

Gary is a Partner at Neworld, a brand & creative design agency with over 30 years experience developing brands to position them for future growth. Gary has worked with some of Ireland’s biggest brands such as Diageo, John Rocha and O2 and is a recognised expert in hospitality branding, working with Fade St Social, Powerscourt Hotel, Mount Juliet and Adare Manor to name but a few. His belief in branding and its relationship with design effectiveness has seen him guide a myriad of companies through the branding maze. He realises client visions using this synergy of strategic branding and design. He is also the self-professed champion of chilli-making!