Why design is central to building better brands

A new McKinsey reports shows that placing designers at the heart of businesses enhances growth. But to truly work, designers might need to let go of some long-established habits

When McKinsey published its Business Value of Design report in 2018, it caused ripples of excitement and expectation. By establishing a link between design best practice and enhanced financial performance, the report provided some hard evidence for what designers had been claiming for years. Companies that invest in both design and designers, and understand that it is a top-management issue, outperform their peers. McKinsey’s endorsement promised to enhance design’s standing in the corporate world.

Now McKinsey is back with Redesigning the Design Department, a new report that builds on the Business Value of Design by taking a closer look at how designers work in the top-performing companies. For the best results, it suggests designers must leave the psychological safety of the studio and join colleagues from across their organisation in cross-functional product teams. Being both willing and able to engage with colleagues and the business is the route to designers being seen as peers with which to collaborate, rather than service providers waiting to be handed tasks. This leads to design being valued as an engine of growth, not a cost; an essential, not a luxury.

The report “looked at data from three million designers and design leaders in more than 100,000 design departments, combined with their organisations’ financial performance”. Researchers also ran “an in-depth survey of more than 250 business and design leaders, and held interviews with 30 senior executives”. The report found that, “Instead of trying to ‘protect’ designers within the design studio, leading chief design officers (CDOs) work with the C-suite to embed designers into cross-functional teams.”

DESIGNER

LONDON