Guy Swartz

Guy Swartz

Design-Driven Leadership and Why It Gets Results

When most people think of graphic designers, web designers, or user experience designers, they think these are the people who make things look pretty. You know, the people behind cool websites, inspirational advertising campaigns, and other such things. Then they hear the phrases “design-driven leadership” and “investing in design” and think…what?

Today, design-driven leadership is a highly effective tool and tactic used by successful business owners, C-suite professionals, senior marketers, and other professionals in leadership positions.

What is design-driven leadership? Why does it work? And how can you harness it for your needs?

What Is Design-Driven Leadership?

Simply put (we’ll try to put it simply), design-driven leadership is a term to refer to understanding, harnessing and applying a collection of Design Thinking strategies and tactics that focus on motivating people by creating solutions to their unmet wants and needs.

Let’s illustrate this with an example. AirBnB, a well-known design-driven company, saw people’s need for an innovative way to list their properties and rent others all across the globe. AirBnB met this need by taking a design-driven leadership approach. By focusing on creating a streamlined and intuitive process combined with a beautifully functional user interface (applied through their website and app) that truly put the user’s needs and wants at the center of the experience, they pioneered an industry.

The AirBnB website and app, while very cool, are much more than well-laid out user interfaces. And the design-driven leadership process does not stop at these digital experiences. It flows into the marketing, sales, billing, and other departments of AirBnB. And it’s not hard to find other brands crafting similar solutions by applying design-driven leadership to the pressing challenges and needs in their industries.

Simply put, average companies and average leaders create and sell products. Great companies and great leaders craft solutions and lead people to answers through design-driven leadership.

How to Lead By Design

It’s all very well to point to these companies and say “Be like them!” Realistically, what does that look like for a leader of any company who is invested in quality design? While different leaders have different methods, successful design leaders at all levels:

  1. Focus on creating solutions for people, not selling products. Many times, companies start with an idea and they don’t validate it to know if it is truly valuable to improve people’s lives. Use empathy. When you focus first on designing solutions, you tap into a vibrant, lively market that’s just waiting there for you.
  2. Cultivate a design strategy mindset. Each time you identify a need and propose a solution, apply an elevated design strategy to your business processes that includes visual, voice and tone, and brand experience.
  3. Put in place methods to maximize what works, eliminate what doesn’t work, and vet those methods continuously. While this may seem like Business 101, leading by design demands continuous re-evaluation because it is organic in nature; people’s needs change and evolve.
  4. Delegate design and/or creative strategy work that’s outside your range of experience or skillsets. Take advantage of an agency or consultant to harness design leadership and help you reach your goals.

Before We Get Back to Work…

The way in which each motivated company, business, team lead or solo professional utilizes the power of design and applies design leadership will vary. Some will have the resources and abilities to do it in-house and others do not.

Looking for a B2B marketing, creative or brand partner? Contact us today to learn how we can provide expert skills, strategy, and of course design-leadership to your business.

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