Does ‘design management’ matter in terms of business performance?

Design is everywhere, design is everything. Our faces, clothes, houses, cities, food, movies, books, journals, magazines, music, our lifestyle is design. As human beings, thus equipped with rational and emotional capabilities, we can choose things amongst others. What determines our choices is the way we perceive our surroundings. Imagine these two cups of coffee in front of you. The second cup costs 1 pound more than the first one – 2,70 £. What would your choice be?



20 out of 20 students and staff I interviewed at the London College of Communication, would rather choose the second cup: “because its foam is creamer” and “it wishes you a better day”. The preferred cup has

the perfect design of a ‘leaf’ with a heart shape on its top. Its design attracts people because of its perfection and the sensation it recalls.

In this chase, design makes a difference in the business practices, considering that a shop which sells the most fashionable cup of coffee, would gain 20 pounds extra over the one which sells the 1,70-pound cup, within 20 sells.

Few examples proof the direct impact of design on the business performance. The first evidence that comes into mind is the launch of the Apple’s iPod in the market, which within few years, suppressed any revenue for the new MP3 device. The only difference between the latter was their appearance. The iPod futuristic and dynamic overall touch screen probably was the reason customers preferred to buy the latter over the MP3 antique look.

In 2010 the annual Curry Stone Design Prize, which “highlight, honour, and reward projects that improve daily living conditions for communities around the


world”, was given to Elizabeth Scharpf. As described on her LinkedIn page, Elizabeth is “currently Founder/ CEO of Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), a social venture that invests in people and ideas that are overlooked, often taboo, but can have an enormous social & economic impact”. The Curry Stone Foundation rewarded her design of menstrual pads made from banana tree fibres, commune source in Rwanda, for the female community that usually misses hours of work and school due to the inaccessibility of intimal and hygienic goods during their period. Elizabeth gained the prize three years after her graduation from the Harvard Business School. This case proves how design and business co-operating allows both sides successful achievements. Elizabeth, although being an entrepreneur, has been priced for using design and its process, to improve human’s life in Africa.

Design is crucial regarding profit making. The travel booking site leader, Expedia, has experienced it. Observing a loss of capital, the Expedia analysts investigated on why many customers who clicked the ‘Buy Now’ button on the company site did not complete the transaction. A field on the payment stage was confusing: customers would have understood their bank address was needed, instead of their billing address, failing thus the transaction because the

address provided was not the holder’s address. A single visual mistake was costing Expedia $12m a year.

Many brands are quickly well known around the world due to their design impact in people’s everyday lives: Coca-Cola, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Ikea. All these brands are primary protagonists of globalisation thanks to their branding design. Each of them is clearly recognisable. People sense values from these brand’s spots and adverts. The design of the latter can be crucial for the profit of a brand. Therefore, each of them aims to strike people’s emotions.

Design determines people’s decisions and feelings since long historical periods. The Catholic church has always intimidated and recruited followers through paintings recounting episodes taken from the Bible, and awe-inspiring buildings which recalled the Omniscient presence and thus the nonentity of the human condition. A similar evidence can be contextualised in the 30’s and 40’s when the urban design of Berlin was reinvented to demonstrate the greatness on Nazis German and its supremacy through symbolism reflecting the country’s heritage. On September 2015, I visited Berlin. The shores of the Spree towards the new centre, are adorned by modern and glassy buildings of the government which transmit the sense of democracy and transparency which the contemporary politics of German is trying to adopt.

As in the past, design today visually communicate and influence people’s sensations: it shapes our feeling and bias.

Therefore, design is necessary for any form of business which aims to increase profit and credibility. Citing Rodney Fitch’s speech at the Cannes Lions 2009, design is the “bedrock of modern business”, as fulcrum of people’s attitude and behaviour. Design is everything, Design is everywhere.


By Nicole Afonso Alves Calistri, 2016


Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2009, “Fitch seminar – Cannes Lions 2009” available from accessed on 1/1/2016

Curry Stone Prize 2010, “A far-reaching health education program to distribute sustainably made, locally manufactured menstrual pads”, available from accessed on 3/2/2016

Heat N. 2010, “Expedia on how one extra data field can cost $12m” available from accessed on 2/2/2016




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s