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Lessons for Every CEO: Why Design-Led Companies Succeed

June 18, 2024

I’m Nelett
You're powerful, way more than you might think. And in this cozy corner of the internet, I'm all about keeping you inspired, pumped, and ready to take on the world.
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In the hectic business world, many CEOs and business owners overlook or undervalue the magic ingredient that makes their brand unforgettable: design. Picture this: Your finance and operations teams are the engine and wheels of your company, keeping things moving smoothly. But design? Design is the paint job, the sleek finish, the eye-catching detail that makes heads turn. The secret weapon can also set your brand apart from the competition. Without it, your brand could be just another car on the road. 

Consider the undeniable success of design-led companies like Apple and LEGO. Apple’s sleek and intuitive design has been a critical factor in its success, with its market value surpassing $ 2 trillion. According to the Design Management Institute (DMI), these companies have outperformed the 500 largest corporations (S&P 500) by 219% over ten years. Additionally, companies with strong design capabilities achieve 32% higher revenue growth and a 56% higher total return to shareholders compared to those with weaker design capabilities​ (McKinsey & Company)​​ (McKinsey & Company)​​ (Bang Design). 

The Magic of Design

Design isn’t just about looking pretty; it’s about telling a story. A great designer translates your business strategy into visuals that speak directly to your audience. This process involves understanding your business’s goals and values, as well as the needs and preferences of your target audience. It’s like having a secret language only your customers understand, making them feel seen and valued.

Iconic Brands That Get It Right: LEGO as the Ultimate Example

Let’s talk about LEGO. Those colourful bricks aren’t just toys; they symbolise creativity, endless possibilities, and pure childhood joy. But LEGO’s brilliance goes beyond the surface. Each brick is a strategic piece, meticulously designed to fit perfectly with the others. This is precisely how your business should approach design.

Building Blocks of Success

Think of your business as a giant LEGO set. Each department—finance, operations, marketing, and design—is a crucial block. Just as every LEGO piece has its place and purpose, every part of your business must align perfectly to create a cohesive and thriving entity. Much like the final pieces in a LEGO masterpiece, the creative team adds the eye-catching details and sleek finish that make your brand unforgettable.

Strategic Integration of Design

For LEGO, design is not an afterthought; it’s at the core of their strategy. They plan each set precisely, ensuring every piece fits seamlessly to create an engaging experience for the user. Similarly, your design and creative team must understand where each “block” of your business fits. They must combine visuals and messages that resonate with your audience and make sense of your brand.

Creating a Cohesive Vision

Design isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a powerful tool for communicating your company’s values, mission, and vision. LEGO’s design strategy ensures that every set, from simple cars to complex spaceships, tells a story and engages its audience. Your business should aim for the same: align your design strategy with your business goals to build a cohesive message that builds trust and loyalty.

Making the Pieces Fit

Investing in a talented creative person or team and fostering a culture of collaboration ensures that every “block” in your business is placed correctly. This is like following a LEGO blueprint, ensuring each piece supports the next, leading to a successful and appealing final product. When your creative team understands the bigger picture, they can make strategic decisions that enhance your brand’s overall impact.

As LEGO’s colourful bricks come together to form something extraordinary, your business can achieve remarkable success by integrating design into your core strategy. Each department is a vital block in your business, and with the creative team understanding where each piece fits, you can create a brand that stands out, resonates with your audience, and drives business success.

A well-designed brand is more than just a pretty face. It’s a powerful tool that communicates your company’s values, mission, and vision in a way that words alone can’t. 

It is essential to note here that a well-designed brand is NOT JUST YOUR LOGO—a brand encompasses the emotional aspect, the visual elements, and all touch points of your business. Your logo is part of your brand’s visual identity, including your website, packaging, and marketing materials. A brand is people’s perception of your company, and design plays a crucial role in shaping that perception.

It’s the visual shorthand for your business’s identity. When your design aligns with your strategic goals, it creates a cohesive message that resonates with your audience, builds trust, and fosters loyalty. Like LEGO’s colourful bricks, Nike’s iconic swoosh, and Netflix’s engaging interface, your brand can stand out through effective design that aligns with your business strategy.

Embrace Design in Your Business Strategy

To fully harness the transformative power of design, CEOs and business owners must invest in talented designers. This isn’t just about hiring someone to create a logo; it’s about fostering a culture where designers are recognised as strategic partners, enhancing your decision-making and brand positioning. By doing so, CEOs can feel empowered, knowing that they are making strategic investments that can significantly impact their business’s success.

  1. One critical step in integrating design into your business strategy is fostering collaboration between your creative and business teams. This can be achieved by setting up regular meetings where both teams can share their insights and ideas. Please encourage them to work together, ensuring designers understand your company’s goals. This collaborative approach improves the design quality and fosters a sense of ownership and commitment among your team members. It leads to better business outcomes and a brand that resonates with your audience.
  2. Establish Continuous Feedback: Create a feedback loop where designers receive input from various departments. This helps them refine their work to align better with your business objectives and market demands.
  3. Provide Ongoing Training: Offer training and development opportunities to keep your design team updated with the latest trends and technologies, ensuring your brand remains fresh and innovative.

Design is the secret sauce that can elevate your brand from ordinary to extraordinary. 

Like LEGO’s colourful bricks, Nike’s iconic swoosh, and Netflix’s engaging interface, your brand can stand out through effective design that aligns with your business strategy. By integrating talented designers into your core strategy and fostering a collaborative culture, you can create a brand that not only stands the test of time but also fills you with pride as it resonates with your audience and drives business success. As a CEO, this success can be a source of great pride and accomplishment, knowing that your strategic decisions have led to such positive outcomes. Investing in design is not just a short-term strategy; it’s a long-term investment in your brand’s future.

So, dear CEO and business owner, remember that a great designer is as essential as a financial strategist. Effective design makes your company’s message visible in the noise. By investing in your creative team, you are enhancing your brand and fostering a culture of appreciation and understanding where the value of design is recognised and celebrated. This can create a sense of unity and shared purpose within your team, making everyone feel valued and integral to the company’s operations. Watch your brand shine like never before.

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Hi there, I'm Nelett, and I'm a designer just like you. Life's always changing, and being a designer can feel like a wild ride. But we're more than that, aren't we? We're caregivers, friends, and life lovers who find joy in more than just our work. We're all on this journey, each in our own way, but somehow, we're together in it.

Here's what I believe: You are powerful, more than you might realise. In this cozy corner of the internet, I'm here to keep you inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way.




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