I recently visited Melbourne, indulging in the magic of Melbourne Design Week. I'll tell more about that soon, but in the meantime, here's an insight into one of the events I attended. Creative agency MoWorks hosted an event titled How to Use Design to Get Businesses Future Ready and I wrote a short piece about it, which I've reproduced here. Enjoy.
Future-proofing your business with design
Business is beginning to recognise the value of design. While this can only be a positive development, it also imposes a responsibility on designers to find ways of maintaining their competitive edge in an overcrowded market.
In this environment, the question is, what can designers do to help businesses stay ahead?
This was the main theme of Mo Works' talk entitled 'How to Use Design to Get Businesses Future Ready'. The event was hosted at the agency on 21 March as part of the Melbourne Design Week programme.
Design Your Own Future
After a brief introduction, we get started. Agency founder Mo starts with a bold statement, heavy with truth: "The best way to predict the future is to design it." It sets the tone for the evening.
Mo Works' Business Development Executive, Samantha, challenges us to think about what qualities a startup needs. She talks about speed, shared accountability, being people-focused, curiosity, unconventionality, frugality and embracing fear.
Together, these qualities contribute to building a sustainable business. Building a business is about responding quickly to what clients need, putting their needs first and being fully accountable for what you do for them.
Be a Strategic Adviser
Sam makes another critical point about design-led thinking. "To set themselves apart, designers need to consult and make recommendations," she says. "A designer should ask why, why, why and why." These questions will broaden the discussion beyond the client's initial problem. A design thinking approach reveals the underlying issue, expanding from an immediate concern.
Consider this scenario: a client asks a designer to create a new website. The easiest route is for the designer to deliver only what the client asked for before moving on to the next brief once complete. By contrast, a design thinking approach seeks to understand why the new website is required in the first place by asking:
- What problem should it address?
- What role does it play in the business?
- How does it represent those needs?
- What are the gaps that the current website is unable to fill?
- How does it align with the overall business objectives?
Armed with the answers, the designer can offer deeper insights that may reveal opportunities that could maximise the impact of the client's business in other ways.
Content Influences the Design Response
That said, Sam cautions that the lifespan of the content will also have a direct influence on the design response. Is it disposable, as in social media? Brief, as in a letterhead? Will it make a permanent impression, as in signage or a logo? Or does it need to be a crafted video production?
Aligned with this is the need to understand how these content elements converge. That insight enables the designer to produce content that responds directly to the client's needs, beyond the single brief. With a deeper understanding, the designer becomes a strategic partner in building the client's design profile.
Know What the Client Knows
Later, Mo makes an important point: "Different clients will have a different understanding of the value of design." This will dictate the designer-client relationship. He broadly describes three types of client: the Pro, the Curious and the Rock.
- Understands the design process
- Knows what they want
- Has experience in getting it every time
If the client is a Pro, the designer needs to demonstrate what the return on investment will be. Consider, for example, how a campaign could increase sales or how a new digital strategy could improve the client's community engagement. Pro wants to see figures and commitments to performance – hard facts that can directly affect the bottom line.
- Less definitive in what they know
- May be less rigid in their demands to achieve their goals
- May not have a clear idea of what they want
Curious is likely to need more than one concept, expressing more than one idea. They may need some nurturing through the process, and is likely to rely on the designer to provide ongoing support and care as the project progresses.
- Likely to be acting under instructions from a colleague or superior
- May be doing so with resistance
- May come into the process with preconceived ideas
The designer will need to work hard to demonstrate how the design will add real value to his life and provide clear responses to counteract any obstacles that the Rock may present.
It's likely that every designer has encountered one or all of these client types – and even a combination of the three. Being able to recognise the type helps the designer to adjust their response more accurately.
Respond Accordingly for Project Success
"Remember this and you'll be able to operate with confidence and build trust in the client's mind," says Mo.
Ideally, he says, a designer's perfect client is a combination of all three. But ultimately, "regardless of their profile, if you understand what they need and manage expectations continually, you'll have a better chance of delivering work of high value that will both surprise and delight them."
And that, in a nutshell, is the core of building a future-ready business through design.
Thanks to MoWorks for hosting such an engaging event.