Understand the Value of Design in our Workplace

Thoughtful design… Why is it relevant? What is its significance, and why is it valuable in our workplace? Design is a symbiosis of thought and creative problem solving; embracing curiosity and innovation. It’s identifying an issue, developing ideas and then challenging those ideas to the point of resolution. It makes elements of our lives more useful, usable, desirable and meaningful. Good or bad, design is all around us and its impact should not be underestimated. Poor design has the ability to bring us down. It can depress, dilute, and even devalue a community. But when design is done right, thoughtful and with purpose, it can enhance our lives and improve the way we work and live. It has the ability to make our lives easier; impacting our wellbeing and making us healthier individuals. It can excite, invigorate the imagination, and inspire.

So how do we know when design is good? Better yet, how do we measure its value in our workplace? Identifying good design is not always easy, and quantifying its affect can be a bigger challenge. However, experiencing good design resonates through its employees and is reflected in their work and culture. Until recently we lacked the metrics to support the value of design and relied on workplace performance surveys. Benchmarking information provided through performance based surveys informed companies on adjustments needed to optimize workspaces; however these surveys lacked the allusive figures that justify the direct business value delivered by design, and don’t capture the design intangibles, such as inspiration and stimulation.

A recent study has provided support to the argument that thoughtful design adds value to a business’ bottom line. The Design Management Institute’s Design Value Index studies the results of companies that meet a certain level of design integration criteria, which defines a “design-led company.” The criteria includes growth in design-related investments, level of design integrated in company structure, presence of design leadership and a commitment to leveraging design as an innovation resource. The results were delineated in a recent article post by the Harvard Business Review titled Design Can Drive Exceptional Business. The study compared 15 of the most design centric companies against the rest of the S&P. The results show that companies that institutionally understand the value of good design maintained a significant stock market advantage and outperformed the S&P by an astounding 228% over the last ten years. These statistics are gaudy and may appear biased by some; however it is hard to question the reputation of design oriented companies such as Apple, Starbucks, Target and Nike. These companies understand that design runs much deeper than marketing. It is integrated into their process, deep into the culture of the people and the physical environment that supports them. Their commitment to design is clear. It is reflected in well thought and executed products and ideas. Their genuineness and commitment to design is obvious, and it fosters loyalty to the brand driving the company performance.
So does a good design dialogue belong in the forefront of our company mindset? Consider the ability to recruit and sustain the top talent in a competitive market and delivering better value to our customers; Apple is a great example of putting design front and center. The lines in front of the Apple stores during the latest iPhone release are proof.

Design thinking is a strategy and companies who embrace it benefit from it.

Dustin Seager IIDA, LEED AP ID+C directs the Interiors Studio at Liollio Architecture. Contact him at dustin@liollio.com