At Open we identify and examine customer issues. At DNA we deliver on that thinking.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

Making ideas work

Are we all designers?

Grenville Main November 2012

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 focus on project management and more rigor in reporting as we are now ever more accountable and focused on delivering a return on our clients’ investment.

But, what some of our designers had missed was the real trend at play, that designers are everywhere, and they are now coming in all shapes and forms, and that they have all manner of roles and titles in our company  - and in our clients organisations. 

We have a term 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 – and this is 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, IA's, interaction experts, retail delivery specialists, developers, and project managers. Every step of a project or challenge needs a design response and will benefit from 'design thinking', even if it is a project plan that is being designed. 

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). It is evident in every successful interaction we have with clients - and in every successful interaction they have with their customers - and it has made us better when we design. 

We are using design thinking more than ever before, and the 'design' (which 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 (an app we created for ACC), where the visual design and solution design we deployed is more liberating for users than it otherwise may have been. Also, 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. does it make a difference - well, if you ask Powershop its what helped them win Gold in the 2012 Best Effect Award at the NZ Best awards.

For the record - this post was first published by Idealog - to see more of Grens ranting check out Idealog's design ruminations.

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