Gaining a competitive advantage through design-led thinking

Published on
October 4, 2013

Can creativity play a role in defining business strategy and delivering growth?

In an internationally competitive market, the challenge is to ensure your brand is meaningful, memorable and relevant. If a business is structured around strategic thinking with creativity at the core, the result will be more innovative products, better services and dynamic systems and processes.

It is important to understand that when considering creativity in a business sense, we are not referring to design aesthetics or creative outputs. Creative or design-led thinking incorporates and integrates the principles of design strategy and process into business models, enabling the business to build a successful and – most importantly – valuable brand.

Put simply, design-led thinking is a discipline that uses the designer’s method and approach to problem-solving by matching problems with solutions that can be converted into customer value and market opportunity. The value that design-led thinking brings to an organisation is a different way of thinking, working, and addressing problems, resulting in cultural change and related shifts in business practice.

With this approach in mind, the key to transforming businesses and building successful brands (whether product or service) is to embed design thinking into every aspect of business planning right from the beginning. Many well–known brands have done it to great effect and a growing number of businesses are rapidly embracing this way of thinking.

Apple is the perfect example of a truly design-led organisation. Steve Jobs was passionate about design and integrated it seamlessly throughout the organisation from the office environment, to retail stores, innovative products, and a unique user–interface. This integration created the ultimate customer experience and a brand that has real value and market share.

Some of the main principles of a design-led approach to business are:

  • Integrate design-led thinking into the organisation’s work practices by developing dynamic, strategic processes to solve problems and get the best out of your teams, in turn delivering projects that add value well beyond the client brief.
  • Include creative minds in the process from the start. Don’t treat design as a final step in the development process. A designer can always make a developed idea more attractive to consumers, however involving designers from the start will result in the creation of ideas that better meet consumers’ needs and desires, leading to value and providing a competitive advantage.
  • Build creative environments within the workplace to foster collaboration and integration across teams, helping to promote innovative thinking and allow for different perspectives and multiple approaches to solving business problems.
  • Design-led thinking is not just for designers! Explore the potential of participation and engagement with clients, customers, and teams. Each will have a slightly different approach to developing ideas resulting in outcomes that are more meaningful, productive, and profitable.

By adopting a design-led approach and integrating creativity into your business strategy, you will create a corporate culture that gets the best results from your teams, and develop a brand that provides you with a sustainable competitive advantage and a genuine desire for your product or service.

For further information about how design-led thinking can give your business a competitive advantage, please contact Christine Rosher, Group Manager, Creative on 07 3229 4499 or