Leading Business by Design: Why and how business leaders invest in design

Design is everything, because without it we have no business. …
there is intense competition, and anybody can design a decent product.  They can’t all design outstanding products.  So, design is the differentiator.  CEO, Pentland Brands plc

Leading Business by Design:  Why and how business leaders invest in design is a report on research conducted by the Warwick Business School (WBS) on behalf of the UK Design Council.   I found out about the report from our colleague Ed Gardiner — who coordinates the bridging between Warwick and the Design Council.  When Ed first told me about this research it was called “Design in the Boardroom” — now Leading Business by Design.  The research lead is Pietro Micheli from WBS. You can find the report here:


The Design Council also held an event last month with the same name. You can find the summary and selection of videos here:


In summary:  the report outlines findings and recommendations.  Case studies include Barclay’s, Herman Miller, Virgin Atlantic, O2, Jaguar Land Rover and seven others.


  1. Design is customer centred.
  2. Design is most powerful when culturally embedded.
  3. Design can add value to any organization.

Note:  The paradox of quantifying benefits upfront (p. 6)

“No company in our sample has a robust method for assessing design’s impact on performance (especially the financial impact).  Also several interviewees identified a paradox:  the greater the requirement for design to provide it s contribution upfront through detailed analysis, the more conservative the approach taken — resulting in lower impact on performance.  As a consequence, our interviewees — both designs and non-designers — emphasized the necessity for top management to trust, at least to some extent, the value of design and the work of designers.”


  1. Don’t limit the context in which design can operate
  2. Use design to differentiate
  3. Integrate design and branding
  4. Introduce a design process
  5. Trust and support you design talent
  6. Embed design in your organizational culture
  7. Design your work environment
  8. Don’t let the designer’s role be a straitjacket

I’m reminded about the recent blog about design taking on too much and setting expectations that are unrealistic.  No silver bullet.  But good to see some research about how businesses are using design — and what the challenges and opportunities are.


Leave a Reply