eleven lessons complete studio uk design council

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Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands

How do leading companies manage design in their businesses? Our in-depth study of the design processes used in eleven global brands gives real insights into the way design operates in these firms, and delivers usable lessons for all designers and managers. Delivering competitive advantage through design

Design plays a fundamental role in the success of many of the worlds leading companies. But how do those firms ensure that they are getting the best return on their investment in design? To find out, we spent time with eleven of the worlds top design teams.

A qualitative study of the modern design process For our most in-depth study ever, Design Council researchers visited the design

departments of eleven companies, all world-leaders in their fields and all with a public

commitment to the use of design to improve their brand strength and product and

service offerings.

The study looked at the way design is used in these firms, how designers work with staff

from other disciplines and how the design process is managed to deliver consistently

successful results. How is design managed across complex, global, product and brand

portfolios, we wanted to know. So we asked leading design teams how they select and

organise their designers, and when they bring designers into the product or service

development process. We also wanted to find out what skills todays designers need in

order to succeed.

From this in-depth examination we aimed to draw out some of the key features that

define the state-of-the-art in modern design practice, as well as the unique approaches

that set some firms apart.

Design Council, 34 Bow Street, London WC2E 7DL

Tel +44(0)20 7420 5200 Fax +44(0)20 7420 5300


The full study includes eleven case studies looking in detail at the processes used at

each participating company. These can be accessed using the links below.

Eleven world-leading companies

Alessi, one of the worlds leading manufacturers of designer kitchen

and tableware, puts design at the very heart of its business and has

developed sophisticated processes for finding, commissioning and

developing new designs from a worldwide network of talented

designers and architects.

A pioneer in the delivery of multi-channel television in the UK,

BSkyB has recognised the potential to use design as a market

differentiator. While continuing to evolve its product offering, it has

focused on developing in-house design management capability while

building a strong relationship with an external design consultancy for

the execution of product designs.

Communications service provider BT is one of the UKs best known

companies. A diverse and rapidly evolving organisation, it makes

extensive use of design in many aspects of its business, closely

integrating it with the BT brand. The company has developed tools and

processes to manage an extensive roster of external design suppliers

and help them communicate the brand.

Danish company LEGO, the worlds sixth largest toy maker, has

transformed the processes of its design function in recent years.

These changes have streamlined product development and the

processes developed by the in-house design function are now being

used as a method to improve innovation across the entire business.

Microsoft, the worlds leading supplier of operating system software,

has completed a significant evolution in its attitudes to design. Having

once been a technologically-driven organisation, Microsoft now uses

design thinking to focus on developing products that answer users

needs. With management support, this focus on user-experience is

also influencing Microsofts organisational structure and culture.

Design Council, 34 Bow Street, London WC2E 7DL

Tel +44(0)20 7420 5200 Fax +44(0)20 7420 5300


Electronics, games and entertainment giant Sony has used design

since the 1960s to differentiate its products and maximise the

usefulness of its advanced technologies. Sony Design Group across

the world employs around 250 designers and has developed a set of

core design values against which the company judges the success of

all its products.

From its beginnings as a single coffee shop in Seattle 35 years ago,

Starbucks is now a global brand which uses design to aid the

delivery of a distinctive service experience to its customers. The

Starbucks Global Creative team has developed a strategy that allows

it to balance regularly changing design themes with a consistent set of

brand values.

Virgin Atlantic Airways, founded in 1984 by British entrepreneur

Richard Branson, has innovation as a core brand value and uses

design as a key competitive differentiator. The in-house design team

manages many aspects of design for the airline, including service

concepts as well as interiors, uniforms and airport lounge architecture,

and works with a number of agencies worldwide.

Whirlpool Corporation is a leading manufacturer of major home

appliances. The Global Consumer Design unit at Whirlpool has a staff

of over 150 people and has developed expertise and processes that

help the company respond to the demand for increasingly

sophisticated and complex appliances and develop individual products

under different brand umbrellas worldwide.

Xerox was founded in 1906 and has been developing pioneering

office automation technologies since it introduced the first photocopier

in1949. The design function at Xerox plays an increasingly important

role in the organisation, and has recently been implementing a

significant programme to broaden the breadth and scope of design

input into new and existing product development.

Founded in 1994, Yahoo! has grown from a pioneering search

engine to become one of the most popular portals on the Internet. An

organisation that uses technology to focus on customer needs, Yahoo!

operates a highly customer-centric design process, with user research

instrumental in the development of new products and the evolution of

existing ones.

Design Council, 34 Bow Street, London WC2E 7DL

Tel +44(0)20 7420 5200 Fax +44(0)20 7420 5300


In more depthFind out more about the way design processes are defined and measured by

downloading a PDF (464KB) version of our detailed Desk Research ReportBackground and methodology

In 2007, the Design Council was asked to conduct a study of the design processes used in leading global companies. The remit of the study was to understand the design processes used by leading corporate users of design, what elements they involve, and how these processes take a product or service from an idea through to implementation and launch. The creative or design heads of eleven leading users of design took part in in-depth interviews. The key aim of this design process study was to seek the answers to five questions:

What is the design process used in leading corporate users of design?

How is the process managed?

What benefits does it bring?

What are the similarities and differences among these companies design


Are there activities or methods among the design processes observed that could

constitute best practice?

A mix of companies with product and service-based offers was sought and agreed to

take part.

The criteria for the companies selected for the design process study was that they be

leading corporate users of design with a reputation for successfully applying design to

either their product or service, or both. Equally, the companies needed to represent a

variety of sectors. A list of companies that fulfilled these requirements was compiled,

and contact was established with eleven design heads willing to take part in the study.

Clearly while these companies have their use of design in common, one key challenge

in investigating the design process across several companies is taking into account how

such a process will differ depending on the companies product or service offer, size,

shape and location, legacy of design use, and its supply-chains and production


The participating companies originate mainly from Western Europe and the United

States, and all are global in their operations. This does not, however, reflect a

predominance of design process expertise in these regions.

Design Council, 34 Bow Street, London WC2E 7DL

Tel +44(0)20 7420 5200 Fax +44(0)20 7420 5300


MethodologyThe design process study was conducted using a qualitative research methodology,

and drew heavily on the Design Councils knowledge of and expertise in the theories

and practices of design management and strategy. The stages of the study were as


An initial desk research project summarised the evolution and development of

design process methodologies from an academic perspective, and highlighted the

leading insights on areas such as the b