It’s simple, Designers create value and more businesses should recognise this. We excel at Design in this country, it’s an under-exploited competitive advantage, great designers provide a clear vision for a brand and the means to communicate this to the consumer, when we get it right this makes brands magnetic. I was invited to join the management board at Mulberry in 2008 and left in 2012. Over 5 years turnover tripled and the share price rose from £1.50 to a high of £26.00; that’s what designers can bring to a company at board level.
Georgia Fendley, founder and creative director, Construct; Brand Director Mulberry 2008-2012
Design can now make or break a business so the benefits of active representation at boardroom level are compelling and already being demonstrated by design driven organisations. Boardroom level designers can help organisations stay relevant and flourish, help shape create and realise new opportunities, convert brand intention into reality through customer experience and ultimately drive profit. With the physics of entire sectors being rewired, design in the boardroom is also about survival.
Lee Sankey, design director, Barclays
It would be unusual to find someone with the years of experience you’d need to operate at board level still being called a designer. So if we’re talking about experienced design practitioners, and by that I mean those from either the creative (right brain) or administrative (left brain) part of a design/branding consultancy, then what they should bring is design leadership. They should be capable of linking the ambitions and objectives of the board (having helped to develop them) to the day-to-day activity of the business that leads to those objectives being met. That is how you get design into the boardroom. That is how you use design to solve boardroom challenges. And in my opinion, no “designer” should agree to undertake a project until they are clear about what aspect of the board’s business strategy they are fulfilling. Always ask.
Deborah Dawton, chief executive, DBA
The quick answer is a huge amount. Not because we have unique skills, but because we come from a different viewpoint – in particular a customer-centric one. However, for us to attain board membership and for our views to have effect, we must appreciate that boardrooms are focused on financial, legal, strategy and risk issues, not customers or design. Therefore, a softly, softly approach is necessary. We should also remember that directors from non-design backgrounds can make superb non-execs for design businesses – the traffic should be two-way.
David Worthington, director, Creative Boardroom; chairman, Holmes & Marchant
Great ideas are fragile; it takes more effort to make them work than it does to shoot them down. Having a designer at board level gives them the responsibility to champion great ideas and ensure design is integral across the business. To be successful, companies have at their core a great understanding of their design identity, which they use to create great physical, digital or service based experiences and to strengthen their brand. Delivering design thinking at the heart of a company is not easy, the design process is disruptive, non linear, and can be a scary! A successful designer has all the right experience to manage, communicate and deliver this thinking.
Ben Watson, associate design director, Seymourpowell
We’ve just undertaken some research on this topic and we’ve found that there are some consistent attributes and benefits that designers can bring to a business at a senior level. At their most impactful, designers were involved in shaping business strategies and leading business processes. Companies like O2 told us how the design team knits together diverse parts of their business, facilitating collaboration and encouraging teamwork and creativity. The research will be discussed at our Design Summit on 12 February. We also need a few more people like Christopher Bailey who has gone from Creative Director at Burberry’s to become their new CEO.
John Mathers, chief executive officer, Design Council
As designers, we know that good design can add significant value, not just in terms of the final product or service and its appeal to customers, but in terms of the development process, manufacture and making the best use of resources. Working at board level means you’re in a greater position to impact every part of the process.
Paul Priestman, director Priestmangoode and Creative Director CSR Sifang
Outwardly at board meetings people nod and smile the way they always do, while inwardly they feel pushback and discomfort. The strength of the creative at this level is they will ask that, stop them dead in their track question, that needs answering. This is because of their very being they tend to be curious and have a conscience and soul, as they understand the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Equally important they can navigate the two worlds of logic and magic and help a board throw away the traditional scripts and harness their imagination to do the impossible.
Rod Petrie, personal development coach to creative professionals.