2016: Every Company is a Design Company

“Everyone is thinking about the User Experience–and that’s what makes the product so much better.” — Mark Kawano

“89% of companies surveyed plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience in 2016.” — Gartner Research

“The #1 innovation project for 2016 is Customer Experience.” — Gartner Research

“85% of customers are frustrated by dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them, 84% by companies promising one thing but delivering another, 58% frustrated by an inconsistent experience.” — Accenture 2014 Consumer Survey

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like.  Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs

“What we make testifies who we are.  People can sense care and sense carelessness.” — Jonathan Ive

Happy New Year my friends.  I hope this finds you well and rested!

Why is it that when I buy slippers for the Missus at Nordstrom the experience is flawless?  Why is it that I avoid shopping at Wal-Mart at nearly all cost?  What happened to the Pontiac Aztec?  Rhetorical questions.

It’s time to drive design through your company.  Design thinking–the aesthetics of your company, the functionality of your organization, the escapist aspects of the user-experience, and the simplicity–that invisible architecture that seamlessly guides a customer along a flawless path–the feel.  We’re all in a race for relationships.  And these days every company is a design company, even in the trades.

Customers crave great design.  It makes a product or an experience enjoyable.  Design transforms the ordinary in to the extraordinary.  Beautiful design contributes to a first-class experience.  A first-class experience allows you command a higher price for otherwise commodity products and services.

Design creates ease and functionality in products and services.  Meticulously crafted processes and procedures, products, talent. Continual refinement improves simplicity and consistency.


Design demands teamwork and deep levels of personal ownership among the people involved.  The result is massively improved functionality as the people executing the design are also the people who helped create it.

Design is merciless.  It demands the highest standard of refinement and discipline–attributes any smart business owner respects.

Design, truly brilliant design, results in a world-class differentiation.  We’re in an experience economy.  Differentiating your service business amidst the sturm and drang of the industry is growing more difficult.  Yet great design is unmistakable.  It cannot help but be noticed because it is also very scarce.

Finally, great design and profitability go hand-in-hand.  Think of the products that exceptionally designed.  Think of companies that continually design in exceptional user experiences.  They tend to be incredibly profitable don’t they?

Here’s the tough part: Van wraps aren’t design.  They’re part of it but they’re not it.  Smart uniforms aren’t design.  They, too, contribute to it, but they’re trappings.  Snappy phone greetings are an extension of design thinking but again, not design.  Building a design-driven company begins with a question:

“How do I want my customers to feel when they use my company or service?”

Now work backwards.

Design is a growth engine for your company.  Like it or not the technical aptitudes that were once the bedrock of your success have reached a point of parity.  Improving the sales process is one way to try to grow the top line next year.  But that’s only one silo and it’s dependent on expensive leads, weather, referrals, and the performance of the CSR and installation teams.  Better labor management is another way to try and grow the bottom line.  Another silo that is dependent on the sales team, inventory, ordering accuracy, and attitude.  Those are both fine ways to make more money next year.   But neither will be as effective unless your entire company functions flawlessly under a unifying, experience-driven design aesthetic.


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