A lot is written about the importance of creating a solid company culture. Design studios and ad firms have traditionally led the way in this department. They were offering lifestyle perks like good food, hip music, perhaps cold beer on tap and other cool incentives long before the tech world. But as more large companies bring design in-house, is that really going to happen in the corporate world? Are they also going to set up a Google-esque cafeteria with hot meals served 24/7 and a dedicated number of unbillable hours each month for “innovation thinking”?
Most brands would love to be more Googley or Apple-like. No one argues that Apple, Nike, Google and Coca-Cola are valuable, profitable brands in part due to their culture. But they are also brands that come alive for people by putting useful technology into their hands. In fact, the movement among companies like Ford Motors is to re-label themselves as ‘tech companies’. And Apple will someday no doubt have a division that creates and sells cars.
Talent is the major obstacle to creating a design-driven company. To combine innovative tech with inspired design and UX at the corporate level takes a vision from the top down. Good taste and brand value come at a premium. Staff up and bring your wallet.
Great designers have always been devoted to finding that balance between form and function. Great developers work hard to write pristine code. It’s a similar mindset. However, the popular corporate view of the designer is that he or she is an artiste who is more interested in the purity of a graphic vision than its impact on the bottom line. Likewise, the edgy developer is portrayed as some smart kid who can’t communicate or make eye contact and won’t fit into the corporate culture or legacy IT.
In reality, those kids are likely never going to get hired for an in-house creative position or an in-house IT job. In fact, they probably won’t even apply.
And it’s getting harder. On the branded tech side, it isn’t enough to make something technically great. The start-ups have come in and changed the game. The more successful ones on Kickstarter are the ones with good product design, good marketing, good technology and a good package. In fact, new concepts can be brought to market and tested ‘brand first’ instead of ‘product first.’ This creates a new platform where great branding and communication are the new givens. Building an app that helps customers with their business, or even better—entertains them, keeps a brand in front of the audience and adds value to their lives. It better work. And it better be cool. Not to mention, easy to use.
Name one company nimble enough to behave this way. And yet more and more top brands believe that design is vital to the success of their business. And more businesses embrace marketing technology solutions as ways to stay relevant to their customers. As the MBAs like to say, there’s a disconnect.
How can mere mortal companies become design-driven?
Steve Jobs famously said, “A small team of A Players can run circles around a giant team of B and C Players.” Can a company that aspires to evolve recruit enough A Players to make a difference? Can they afford to?
As Jobs also said, “One more thing.” Besides vision and the talent to execute, the corporate world is rife with workflows, support systems and processes that are all very un-Apple. You can put an A Team in that environment and turn them into B and C Players pretty quick.
Today there is a better paradigm emerging. First, let’s not beat up your in-house creative and IT. They keep the machine running and they deserve to be respected. But let’s also add some firepower to the evolutionary process to kick things up a notch.
You’re on your way to becoming more of a design-driven company.
EVP of Design
Joseph was born into the design business—literally. He has learned from some of the world's most talented and creative people and set out to follow his father's footsteps from day one. Joseph is charged with bringing brilliant creative opportunities to the Duffy team as well as being the keeper of the Duffy brand.