With the world living online, businesses have caught up to customer demands in that space. Digital design has become a key business advantage. A design based on customer understanding coupled with effective visuals and relevant interactions can bring in a loyal base. To bring design-led thinking to the forefront, Adobe held a seminar in Mumbai on Tuesday with distinguished panelists.
“The difference between you and your competitor is experience. People will buy your product based on the experience,” said Michael Stoddart, Director, Market Development at Adobe APAC. He stated that the back-office wave was replaced by the front-office wave, which has been replaced by the experience business wave.
Amit Bhatia, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, explained that a design thinking mentality necessitates that the customer is always at the centre. “The three ‘P’s’ of this process are People (designers, leaders and catalysts), Place (open, safe and collaborative) and Processes (research, co-created, iterative),” he said.
Bhatia said that only a few Indian companies were getting all the facets of the design led thinking right. According to a research by Forrester last year, 60 per cent of Indian companies did not have documented design processes while less than half did primary research. Just one-third used design techniques like journey maps and personas. None of the companies have a defined and documented CX (customer experience) vision,” he added.
“India is a mature advertising market, but a nascent branding market. There’s confusion about what a brand is. Companies do not understand that a brand manifests itself as an internal culture and customer experience,” said Lulu Raghavan, MD at Landor India. According to her, a brand is equal to its experience. Pointing out what is lacking in India, she said, “Branding and design thinking have become buzzwords, yet across the board, we do not have enough successful examples to inspire. India needs more successful examples.”
Sanchita Ganguly, Group Brand Manager of Asian Paints, noted that it is not about B2B or B2C interaction as it is all C2C these days. “Design involves all senses, but people are partial to visuals when talking about design,” she said. According to her, the consumer and emotions are at the core. Speaking about trends, she said that it is necessary to pre-empt them.
Stoddart pointed out that some of the key challenges facing companies are expanding mobile and UX design. He gave the example of the voice driven Amazon Echo, one of the top-selling products in the US currently. “How are you going to design a UX for a speech based interface?” he asked. He mentioned other challenges which were technology moving, beyond the screen, and collaboration and asset sharing.
“Start thinking like a consumer through design-led thinking to keep up with content velocity,” he added. “The content needs context which is compelling and anticipatory. Orchestrate design-led thinking across the organization and keep raising the bar,” he further advised.
Explaining how a company could scale up this thought process, Bhatia suggested: “Ramp up key employees, create a ‘lighthouse’ project (project that others in the company can look up to), cycle teams through these projects to broaden benefits, cement the design mindset with the leadership and never stop learning.”
In the panel discussion moderated by KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Hyper Collective, he raised pertinent questions. He asked if design thinking actually helped businesses, to which Ganguly answered in the affirmative. She advised businesses to start thinking like a consumer while being dynamic and adapt quickly.
Anubhav Gupta, Chief Design Officer of Godrej Industries, defined design-led thinking as a framework to power both innovation and growth. He said that design has to be horizontal, not vertical. “The best way that design thinking works is on a human interface. A lot of it is about empathy,” he said.
When asked about how a business entity like the Aditya Birla Group manages continuous reinvention, Preeti Vyas, Chairwoman and Founder of Vyas Giannetti Creative, said that at the highest level, design thinking is really about business. She said that change, in this case, was gentle and it helped. “See the journey as an inclusive process. Consistency is important,” she said.
Stoddart advised that it is not right to look at tech companies as successful examples. According to him, technology companies are successful not because they are tech inclined, but because they follow a business model that resembles the start-up model. “Get started by mapping the consumer point of view and technology is just a few layers down. Design thinking is a people process and you can do it with a pen and paper,” he said. Raghavan agreed that getting caught up in complexities and technologies would lead nowhere.
Vyas urged not to doubt consumer intelligence. “The communication stimulus should be an idea that will travel across all touchpoints. Even if clients do not understand design thinking, we have seen that they are willing to buy into it. They are quick learners,” opined Vyas.
Stoddart concluded that getting started is the hardest part, but companies need to make a conscious decision to think about design. “If the data is telling you that something is not working, then let it go. Start small and be ready to go wrong,” he advised.