How McKinsey is helping to prove the value of design

McKinsey’s Business Value of Design report might just be what the profession has been looking for: proof of what it can bring to business, in language a CEO understands, and a set of tools to help any organisation get the most out of design

Good design makes the world a better place: designers know this. They understand it implicitly. But how to convince others? In particular, how can designers prove to clients that what they do is central to improving every aspect of their business, or their organisation?

Industry bodies such as the Design Management Institute and the Design Council have produced research that makes the argument for design, but perhaps suffering from a case of ‘well they would say that wouldn’t they?’, their efforts have not done as much to transform the understanding of the potential of design among business leaders as the industry had hoped for. The Design Council’s own Design Economy 2018 report stated that in 40% of UK firms, “design plays only a small or very peripheral part in the operations of the business”. There’s work to do.

At the end of 2018, however, a new piece of research was released by an organisation that already has the ear of, to use that horrible piece of business jargon, the so-called ‘C-Suite’: McKinsey. Renowned (and sometimes reviled) for the transformational impact of its consultancy services, McKinsey – along with its rivals, Accenture and PWC – has been adding design capabilities to its offering, both through creating a design division (which currently numbers 350 staff) and by acquiring design businesses. The Business Value of Design, authored by Benedict Sheppard, Hugo Sarrazin, Garen Kouyoumjian, and Fabricio Dore, four McKinsey partners across offices in London, San Francisco and São Paulo, sought “to study the design actions that leaders can make to unlock business value”. “How do the best design performers increase their revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry counterparts?” they asked.