Should design businesses design businesses?

We are designers, not business consultants, so what gives us the ability to position a business or propose a new direction? Firstly, this question is harder to understand if people still hold the misperception that brands are all about creating logos or colours or strap lines. Of course they are parts of what we can deliver later down the line, along with the guidelines and the ‘stuff’, but being able to set a brand strategy is where the real work is and where we begin.

Brands communicate what a business is, what it does, it’s culture and its sense of ambition. Brands makes meaningful connections with buyers and users, conveying the relationships (the real relationships, not just the wishful ideas of relationships) they have with the products and services on offer. To create that we have to get under the skin of a business and the people who run it. We have to have an ability to ask the right questions, join the right dots and challenge the assumptions. We can do this, not because we went to management school (which we didn’t) and not because we went to design school (which we did), but because over many years we have have delivered design services to hundreds of businesses in many different sectors.

We listen, we learn, we see things from the outside and we cross-connect. Sometimes we see simple things, sometimes we see the potential to shift to entirely new markets.

We are not paid for business reports and theoretical analysis. We are paid to solve problems in creative ways, to give clients new answers, stimulate them, help them make decisions and take leaps. But we also know our place. Once we have delivered, the business needs to follow-through (see our piece on ‘delivering’). The day-to-day running, the operations, the financials and more, they all have to be lined up so we aren’t just handing over empty promises. And that’s another reason we have to be savvy enough to challenge a business and question a brief, because if we don’t, the brand may not hold up and that is bad for our clients and bad for us.

So design businesses like us can design businesses, because we mix our knowledge of business strategy with our abilities in creative design. We don’t then run businesses (and that isn’t where we have expertise), but that doesn’t mean we make brand propositions lightly. We thrive on working with ambitious business minds and combining that with our design skills and outside perspective. It’s an incredibly successful combination, and it delivers results when our clients reap the rewards.

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