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Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands

LEGO was among eleven companies who have shared their design processes

How do leading companies manage design in their businesses? Our in-depth study of the design processes used in eleven global brands gives real insights into the way design operates in these firms, and delivers usable lessons for all designers and managers

 

 

Delivering competitive advantage through design

Design plays a fundamental role in the success of many of the world’s leading companies. But how do those firms ensure that they are getting the best return on their investment in design?

To find out, we spent time with eleven of the world’s top design teams.

A qualitative study of the modern design process

For our most in-depth study ever, Design Council researchers visited the design departments of eleven companies, all world-leaders in their fields and all with a public commitment to the use of design to improve their brand strength and product and service offerings.

The study looked at the way design is used in these firms, how designers work with staff from other disciplines and how the design process is managed to deliver consistently successful results. How is design managed across complex, global, product and brand portfolios, we wanted to know. So we asked leading design teams how they select and organise their designers, and when they bring designers into the product or service development process. We also wanted to find out what skills today’s designers need in order to succeed.

From this in-depth examination we aimed to draw out some of the key features that define the state-of-the-art in modern design practice, as well as the unique approaches that set some firms apart.

The full study includes eleven case studies looking in detail at the processes used at each participating company. These can be accessed using the links below.

Eleven world-leading companies

Alessi Anna G corkscrewAlessi, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of designer kitchen and tableware, puts design at the very heart of its business and has developed sophisticated processes for finding, commissioning and developing new designs from a worldwide network of talented designers and architects.

BSkyB Sky BoxA pioneer in the delivery of multi-channel television in the UK, BSkyB has recognised the potential to use design as a market differentiator. While continuing to evolve its product offering, it has focused on developing in-house design management capability while building a strong relationship with an external design consultancy for the execution of product designs.

BT Home HubCommunications service provider BT is one of the UK’s best known companies. A diverse and rapidly evolving organisation, it makes extensive use of design in many aspects of its business, closely integrating it with the BT brand. The company has developed tools and processes to manage an extensive roster of external design suppliers and help them communicate the brand.

LEGO bricksDanish company LEGO, the world’s sixth largest toy maker, has transformed the processes of its design function in recent years. These changes have streamlined product development and the processes developed by the in-house design function are now being used as a method to improve innovation across the entire business.

Microsoft Office Mac Pro 2004Microsoft, the world’s leading supplier of operating system software, has completed a significant evolution in its attitudes to design. Having once been a technologically-driven organisation, Microsoft now uses design thinking to focus on developing products that answer users’ needs. With management support, this focus on user-experience is also influencing Microsoft’s organisational structure and culture.

Sony PlayStation 3Electronics, games and entertainment giant Sony has used design since the 1960s to differentiate its products and maximise the usefulness of its advanced technologies. Sony Design Group across the world employs around 250 designers and has developed a set of core design values against which the company judges the success of all its products.

Starbucks logoFrom its beginnings as a single coffee shop in Seattle 35 years ago, Starbucks is now a global brand which uses design to aid the delivery of a distinctive service experience to its customers. The Starbucks Global Creative team has developed a strategy that allows it to balance regularly changing design themes with a consistent set of brand values.

Virgin Atlantic AirwaysVirgin Atlantic Airways, founded in 1984 by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, has innovation as a core brand value and uses design as a key competitive differentiator. The in-house design team manages many aspects of design for the airline, including service concepts as well as interiors, uniforms and airport lounge architecture, and works with a number of agencies worldwide.

Whirlpool microwavesWhirlpool Corporation is a leading manufacturer of major home appliances. The Global Consumer Design unit at Whirlpool has a staff of over 150 people and has developed expertise and processes that help the company respond to the demand for increasingly sophisticated and complex appliances and develop individual products under different brand umbrellas worldwide.

Xerox DocuColorXerox was founded in 1906 and has been developing pioneering office automation technologies since it introduced the first photocopier in1949. The design function at Xerox plays an increasingly important role in the organisation, and has recently been implementing a significant programme to broaden the breadth and scope of design input into new and existing product development.

Yahoo! logoFounded in 1994, Yahoo! has grown from a pioneering search engine to become one of the most popular portals on the Internet. An organisation that uses technology to focus on customer needs, Yahoo! operates a highly customer-centric design process, with user research instrumental in the development of new products and the evolution of existing ones.

Find out how they do it

You can use the links below to access key parts of the report content and learn how the companies in the study are tackling the challenges that you face today. Click to explore the content:

In more depth
Read about the methodology we used in the course of this study, or find out more about the way design processes are defined and measured by downloading a PDF (464KB) version of our detailed Desk Research Report

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