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Design: A Need for Change (management)

01 June, 2011 - Source: Else

It’s no good re-engineering a business through design for it to better engage with is customers if you can’t help clients implement it.

  • A Need for Change (management)
    A Need for Change (management)

Increasingly, as brands become experiential and cross-channel, it’s ever more important for design agencies and client teams to look at how they work together so that the integrity of design doesn’t get lost in creation or operation.


Customer experience touches many disciplines in order to work (marketing, brand, product management, IT, customer service, packaging etc etc), and in order for it to work no one person should ‘own’ brand, design or experience (though we belive design should be represented at the highest level in the organisations – another post).


Having spent half of my career with in-house design teams and half in agency environments, over the years I’ve been developing a strong sense of what the ideal team dynamic should be and it’s clear to me that the relationship between client and agency needs to change. Also the nature of the engagement needs to change as too does the way design is procured, selected and delivered.


For too long design agencies have delivered design by documenting and describing ideas, writing rulebooks, specifications and guidelines and throwing them over the fence (I’m talking about branding, advertising, marketing projects here) for the client to implement and then live with, before then moving on to newer shiny things.


All too often you’ll hear some folks in agency environments bemoaning their client for ‘not building it properly’ or ‘not caring about the design’.


We like to talk about the idea of ‘Design with a big D’ here at SomeOneElse, by which we mean big design practice being a playground for everyone and not just the ‘creative’. Big design is the ‘Royal we’, everyone who can make a project, product, campaign or service work, and big design is about the full lifecycle of a project.


Without a collegial approach, design that permeates multiple-channels simply will not work. As I said earlier, a customer will experience a brand through multiple-channels, and each of those channels needs to offer the right thing at the right time in the right way.


If more and more people are coming into contact with brands through digital means, through screens and processes, then branding HAS TO begin to understand how user experience works and HAS TO understand how to deliver it.


Now this isn’t about digital Vs branding (besides we work with digital not in it), it’s about the delivery of impactful design.


I always say that a good, deep reaching, digital project can turn a business inside out – particularly at this time where businesses are undergoing massive cultural and technological change as they become wired, global and 24/7, and that delivering this change requires new skills that I don’t believe many agencies have (and I’m not saying we do either, but we’re aware and that’s something).


To quote Simon Manchipp (Co Founder of Someone) these types of sea change project are “symbols of change, rather than changes of symbol”, otherwise, they are simply re-dressing the shop window or re-arranging deck chairs. Re-branding for example, has to be a strategic and impacting imperative rather than a project going through the motions, and has to signify this type of change.


The question is, what skills are required to manage this change?


Well, User Experience or Experience Strategy, Multi-channel Design or indeed Service Design go someway, but do not complete the picture.


In this post about UX and its impact on Branding, David Law (Co-Founder of SomeOne), puts it very succinctly when he talks about


“User eXperience’ and if you are unfamiliar with the term, just think of it as a sort of ‘Brand engineer’. Their role is to examine every part of a business from top to bottom, kick its tyres then tear it all apart and then suggest ways in which to build it all back up from scratch in a better, stronger and fitter way to create a better user experience.”


But it’s no good re-engineering a business to better engage with is customers if you can’t help them implement it and this is where I think we need not only better relationships with clients but also a better understanding of Change Management Consultancy.


Change Management, for the uninitiated, does just that – manage change in an organisation as it shape shifts. Now, if we (the Royal we) are engaged in big design projects that are shifting the needle so to speak for our clients, then arguable we are having an affect on technology, culture, process, accountability, skills – all, any and more of these.


Seismic projects, introduce new technology and new processes, new accountabilities. New skills are required to work together for the benefit of the customer, it’s all well and good having nice shiny new ‘design things’, but do they work with integrity, does your customer get the experience you intend and that they deserve?


I’ve worked with a few Change management types in my time, and they do an amazing job helping to re-skill a business to face change. If we’re dealing with strategic branding projects, design projects or services – then we must be better equipped to help our clients live with the result of the design process by helping them better integrate and implement design.


Or is this now management consulting..?




One thing that I forgot to add first time around (in reponse to Stephen’s comment below), is that I don’t think design agencies are given a fair crack of the whip to do any of this. The way design is bought often impedes it having maximum impact. Clients feel that by letting agencies in beyond their remit, that they are being ‘farmed’ for more work.


It takes time to have those special relationships with clients, I’ve had them, but the natural attrition and cycle of employees means that team dynamics are constantly in flux, making this very difficult indeed.


Trust has to build on both sides to get the maximum benefit from the engagement, and a starter for 10 would be to change the RFP/Response/Pitch approach (again, another post – why should pitches be free?).


[End Addendum]


There’s lots more on this, but for the sake of a shorter rather than epic blog post I’ll leave it there.


What do you think? Do we do this well enough as an industry? Do you think I’m barking mad?


Image Credits: busy.pochi on Flickr.


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