Over the years, as DNA has grown I have from time to time been taken to task by some of our designers. The standard accusation was "why are there now so many non-designers in the team? It’s wrong!" Sure, we are a design based organisation, but it was suggested that potentially our creativity was being subsumed or at least stifled by all this project management, budget setting and strategy.
Of course we cannot ignore the commercial drivers, the complexity, scale and multichannel integration of many of our projects which have all grown over the years. This requires a greater diversity of inputs and skills, it requires a greater focus on project management and more rigor in reporting as we are now ever more accountable to our clients to deliver a return on their investment.
What some of the designers had missed was the real trend at play, that designers are everywhere, and they are now coming in all shapes and forms, and had all manner of roles and titles in our company and our clients' organisations.
We have a saying at DNA, "We are all designers", which leads to a cultural pillar we have: that we need everyone at DNA to be a problem solver, and that we need to apply creativity to every situation we are confronted with, not just in response to the briefs we receive.
The fact is that now we have more designers than ever at DNA, only now they are strategists, researchers, IAs, interaction experts, retail delivery specialists, developers, and project managers. Every step of a project or challenge needs a design response and benefits from 'design thinking'.
Design thinking is the ability to combine empathy (for the context of a problem), creativity (in the generation of insights and solutions), and rationality (to analyse and fit solutions to the context).Its evident in every successful interaction we have with clients – and in every successful interaction they have with their customers – and that has made us better when we design.
We are designing more than ever before, and the 'design' we've always done is better too. That is evident when you look at the retail solutions we have designed for the Bank of New Zealand and their Australian parent NAB where the user insight we gained drove solutions that are making solid contributions to their commercial performance.
It’s evident on Activesmart where the visual design and solution design we deployed is more liberating for users than it otherwise may have been – and the design thinking we applied in collaboration with Powershop has helped them to empower users and revolutionise their sector.
So, are we all designers? Maybe not by training, but in attitude and contribution to projects, sure. At DNA we are designing more of any given solution than ever before and we are designing with, not just for our clients.
To me at least, that is a good thing.
Grenville Main is managing director of customer experience design consultancy DNA, a rabid collector and proud owner of the most obscenely messy desk in each of DNA's offices.