28 November 2007
London (United Kingdom) - How do the worlds leading design firms ensure that they are getting the best return on their investment in design? The Design Council's "Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global companies" shines a light on the models of a diverse group of market leaders.
London (United Kingdom) - Design is the key driver of innovation for some of the world's highest-profile brands, according to a new study published by the Design Council. The research, entitled Eleven Lessons: managing design in eleven global corporations, was made possible through unprecedented access to some of the biggest and best creative brains in leading organisations including Microsoft, Starbucks, Virgin Atlantic and Sony, and provides a unique insight into their design processes.

These companies not only place design high on their business development agenda but also have set processes for how it is managed internally to contribute to innovation and new product and service development. It also sheds light on exactly how these global leaders manage design and integrate their design teams into their businesses to help themselves stay competitive.

The Design Council interviewed senior design leaders and heads of design in eleven companies: Alessi, BT, BSkyB, LEGO, Microsoft, Starbucks, Whirlpool, Yahoo!, Virgin Atlantic, Xerox and Sony. The main findings offer interesting lessons for business, the design industry and design educators:

Design as a key driver
All the companies place design at the heart of their innovation and new product development strategies. In other words, design is a key driver at the outset of innovation activity, and an essential tool for understanding and translating user needs into products and services.

Similar design process
The companies share a similar design process to take a project from insight and idea to implementation, despite their focus on different products or services. These companies place a significant emphasis on design and on a process for managing design within the wider organisation and this forms the basis of decision making at a strategic level for business and innovation activity.

Design champions
Each company demonstrated how their design function is tied closely to senior management, receiving full support and buy-in at the highest level of the business. The design leaders in these companies also effectively function as design champions who promote the value and impact of design internally.

Corporate design
Design is creative but also corporate, in that it is closely tied to business objectives. Most companies have methods and metrics that they use to prove the impact of design on their bottom line and contribute to brand positioning and profile.

Key processes
A number of processes and tools are used by the businesses to support the core design process and help it function better, such as:

- Multi-disciplinary teams and working processes throughout the innovation process
- Databases, blogs, intranets and case study banks where information and methods from design projects are logged, tracked and developed for wider use in the company's work.

Business-savvy designers
Business-minded designers who demonstrate advanced business knowledge and also have an ability to communicate effectively with experts of other disciplines, including software engineers, materials specialists and researchers

Design Council Chief Executive David Kester commented: 'All the participants in our research are household names, acknowledged as leaders and trend-setters in their field. It is no accident that they are using design strategically and have embraced the fact that design offers business a different perspective on the challenges they face in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace.'

The eleven case studies and the supporting analysis are available on the Design Council website

For further information please contact:

Saskia Sissons
T: +020 7420 5248

About the Design Council
The Design Council is the UK's national strategic body for design. It aims to strengthen and support the economy and society by demonstrating and promoting the vital role of design in making businesses more competitive and public services more effective. The Design Council is an Associate member of Icograda.