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Designers Will Exercise More Leadership in Business

Posted December 21, 2017 by Adrián Fernández

A senior design leader at a large beverage company recently shared his thoughts on the definition of Design Thinking on LinkedIn, asking other members of the community to contribute their own thoughts alongside his. Hundreds of comments ensued. The post appears to be part of a multi-week campaign to position Design Thinking as a way to approach business problems and garner attention from business executives.

And we know that this attention has been hard to capture. A survey of over 600 designers that X-Rite fielded revealed that a common challenge designers experience is obtaining buy-in for their ideas.

This will have to change for entrepreneurs and business leaders to invest in and leverage design, but I believe that the new year will bring such a change. This is because designers already demonstrate many qualities that leaders do.

Straddling the line between idealist and rationalist, designers exhibit aptitudes for originality, insightful problem solving and planning. The same aptitudes are demonstrated by leaders.

designers-leadersIn 2018, more designers will step forward as leaders in business, finding creative solutions, subverting stagnation and spotting the value of a new practice, technique or path. Growth and evolution require leading the way for others and seeing patterns and relationships within new information in order to consider, leverage and invest in innovation visions that may lack any precedence.

Designers lead by articulating a vision on paper (or on-screen) and by determining the specifications through which the vision becomes possible. Designers help their organization define innovation and drive forward design thinking to produce groundbreaking work with the potential to change the brand experiences, and sometimes even the lives of consumers.

Today, more and more business leaders understand the importance of being consumer-centric. At the end of the design process, there is a user. At the end of the product development process, there is a user. Within the whole consumer journey, there is a user. Designers are already adept at taking usage goals and experiences into consideration for each decision: choosing a particular color based on where it will be seen, the weight of paper stock or a type of material based on how it will be handled and the graphic elements featured based on target audience. 

Design is the key to differentiation, which is critical in an age of increasing marketing channel complexity and more informed consumers expecting rapid brand response. It’s the mindset with which complex business challenges are solved. It’s the process through which business strategies are converted into meaningful work. Design and business strategy need to be seamlessly aligned and, in order to achieve this alignment, designers need to be given a seat at the executive table.

Designers will need to use the very traits that make them good designers to exercise leadership in their businesses:

Designers see people through the data. Crafting a quality consumer experience requires taking the time to consider the human being you are trying to reach. Designers combine business strategy with human empathy, keeping the organization consumer-centric.

Designers expect and adapt to change. Designs can change drastically, whether influenced by a new trend, a new technology, or simply the latest batch of feedback in the approval process. Designers are not married to the past. By expecting change, they are better positioned to act when change comes down the pipeline.

Designers strive for simplicity amidst chaos. Good designs, even seemingly complex ones, need to be built upon simple design elements. This tendency to look for simplification of form can be a strong advantage when discussing business strategy and innovation execution.

These are also powerful business strategies, making the voices of designers as business leaders invaluable.

In 2018, as user experience continues to move to the forefront of competitive advantage and business strategy, those who make decisions on behalf of the user, the designers, will step forward and exercise more and more business leadership. 

To read more 2018 trends related to packaging and design, download our trends book: http://bit.ly/2ANx6v7

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