To understand how design can generate economic value for a company, someone needs firstly to recognize what are the distinctive capabilities that make designers special and powerful consultants for the company. Is it their good taste? Is it their tools combined with their design thinking? Or is it their visualization and empathic skills?
In my opinion, it is more than just the above. By knowing how to implement a lot of little things, designers manage to cross several boundaries and bridge the several expertises within a company in order to come up with an optimal outcome. They are undoubtedly the glue between the bricks of a company or else ‘the spider in the web of an organization’ and this is their entry point. Of course they can furthermore deliver functionality, experience, beauty and all these accompanied with style!
Though, they are also experts on how to do this effectively. First, by engaging with the company’s identity and philosophy, as designers working for ALESSI do, and via empathising with the target users, defining their desires and expectations. Both those points are important when it comes to economic value. Brands with a clear personality that deliver products, which satisfy specific targeted consumers’ needs, result in happy customers and in line loyal customers that can bring profit.
Second, designers know how to adjust their skills and thinking according to the market needs and trends, the company’s mission, the target consumer (innovator or late adopter), the several stages in the product’s lifecycle, and the certain aspects of the product in question (utilitarian or hedonic). Looking at all those factors, they can decide what is the best to deliver for a specific case: an artwork or a tool. In other words, they are able to creatively balance function and form (aesthetics, visual appearance) according to the specific context, the specific company, and the specific users. In that sense, their readiness in market changes is high contributing significantly into the company’s survival and competitive advantage. How does that get to money? Well, “survival is the foundation for money”.
Overall, the discussion brings to the point of how designers can convince companies that their capabilities exist and that they can indeed offer economic value? There is no certain answer to that. Hopefully in combining experience, style and capabilities, designers can differentiate themselves and be recognized as valuable.