From Good to Great: How a Culture of Design Can Transform Your Organisation

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From Good to Great: How a Culture of Design Can Transform Your Organisation

Design is more than just making things look pretty. It’s about solving problems in a creative, effective, and human-centred way. By cultivating a culture of design within your organisation, you can drive innovation, improve user experiences, and ultimately achieve better business outcomes.

But how can you cultivate a culture of design? This article will provide practical tips and insights on how to do just that. I’ll cover everything from the benefits of a culture of design to the importance of leadership, hiring for design, providing design training, encouraging collaboration, and measuring the impact.

So grab a cup of coffee, and let’s dive in!

Defining “culture of design”

Before we dive into how to cultivate a culture of design, let’s first define what we mean by “culture of design.” At its core, a culture of design is an organisational mindset that values design as a critical component of its operations. It means that design is not an afterthought, but an essential consideration in everything the organisation does, from product development to customer service.

In contrast, a traditional business culture often values efficiency, profit, and productivity above all else. While these are important goals, such a culture may not prioritise the human-centred design principles necessary for creating products and services that truly meet users’ needs.

Benefits of a culture of design

Now that we’ve defined what a culture of design is, let’s talk about why it’s essential for organisations. A culture of design brings numerous benefits, including:

  1. Better user experiences: A design culture focuses on users’ needs and desires, resulting in products and services that meet their requirements in innovative and effective ways. By emphasising user research, testing, and feedback, organisations can gain valuable insights into their target audience and better understand their needs and pain points. These insights can then inform the design process, resulting in products and services that are more user-friendly and intuitive, leading to better experiences for the end users.
  2.  More innovative and creative solutions: By prioritising design thinking, a culture of design encourages teams to think outside the box and come up with unique and creative solutions to problems. Design thinking emphasises a user-centred, iterative approach that encourages experimentation and exploration. By fostering a culture that values collaboration and risk-taking, teams can work together to generate a wide range of ideas and then refine and test them to find the most effective solutions. This can lead to breakthrough innovations that differentiate organisations in the marketplace and drive long-term success.
  3.  Improved overall organisational performance: When design thinking is incorporated into all aspects of an organisation, it can lead to improved performance, increased profits, and a competitive edge in the market. Organisations can streamline workflows, reduce costs, and improve efficiency by incorporating design thinking into their processes. Design thinking can also help organisations identify and address pain points in their current operations, resulting in optimised systems and improved outcomes. This can ultimately lead to better business results, increased profits, and a competitive advantage in the market.

The role of leadership

Leadership plays a critical role in cultivating a culture of design. Leaders need to set the tone for the organisation by demonstrating the importance of design thinking and modelling the behaviours they want to see in their teams. Some tips for leaders to foster a culture of design include:

  1. Encouraging curiosity: Leaders can encourage their teams to be curious and ask questions about the user’s needs, pain points, and aspirations. By doing so, they can build empathy for the user and create more effective solutions.
  2.  Celebrating failure: Failure is a natural part of the design process, and leaders should encourage their teams to take risks and experiment. By celebrating failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, leaders can foster a culture of innovation and creativity.
  3.  Prioritising design thinking: Finally, leaders must prioritise design thinking and ensure it is integrated into all aspects of the organisation’s operations, from product development to marketing and customer service.

Hiring for design

To cultivate a culture of design, it’s crucial to hire people with design skills and experience. This means looking beyond traditional job requirements and identifying candidates with a creative and innovative mindset. Some tips for hiring for design include:

  1. Look for diverse backgrounds: People with diverse backgrounds and experiences can bring a fresh perspective to the design process and generate unique solutions.
  2.  Assess design skills: During the hiring process, assess candidates’ design skills by asking them to complete a design challenge or review their portfolio.
  3.  Focus on soft skills: When hiring for design positions, it’s essential to prioritise soft skills over technical expertise. While design skills are undoubtedly critical, candidates with strong soft skills such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving, empathy, and adaptability are more likely to succeed in a team environment and create designs that meet the needs of their target audience. Therefore, a focus on hiring candidates with excellent soft skills can ultimately lead to better outcomes and tremendous success in the long run.

Design training

To foster a culture of design, it’s essential to provide ongoing design training for employees. This can include workshops, courses, and other learning opportunities. Some tips for providing design training include:

  1. Incorporate design thinking into all training: Whether it’s customer service training or leadership development, incorporate design thinking into all training to ensure it is integrated into the organisation’s operations.
  2.  Make training engaging and interactive: Design training should be fun, engaging, and interactive to encourage participation and collaboration.
  3.  Provide ongoing training opportunities: Design is an ever-evolving field, and employees need continuing opportunities to learn and develop their skills.

Encouraging collaboration

Collaboration is essential for cultivating a culture of design. Organisations can generate more innovative and effective solutions by encouraging cross-functional teams to work together. Some tips for encouraging collaboration include:

  1. Break down silos: Encourage collaboration across departments by breaking down silos and promoting cross-functional teams.
  2.  Use design thinking workshops: Design thinking workshops can bring together teams from different areas of the organisation to work on specific challenges and generate innovative solutions.
  3.  Foster a safe environment: Create a safe and supportive environment where teams can share their ideas and feedback without fear of judgment or criticism.

Measuring the impact

Finally, measuring the impact of a culture of design is important. By tracking key metrics, organisations can determine the effectiveness of their design initiatives and make data-driven decisions. Some metrics to consider include the following:

  1. Usability metrics: These metrics focus on how easy it is for users to navigate and use a product or service, such as task success rate, time on task, and error rate.
  2.  Engagement metrics: These metrics measure how much users are engaging with a product or service, such as time spent on a website or app, page views, and click-through rates.
  3.  Conversion metrics: These metrics track how well a product or service converts users, such as conversion rate, bounce rate, and cart abandonment rate. By monitoring these metrics, organisations can gain valuable insights into their designs’ performance and make improvements to optimise the user experience.
  4.  Time to market: By tracking the time it takes to bring new products or services to market, organisations can determine the effectiveness of their design processes.
  5.  Employee engagement: By tracking employee engagement levels, organisations can evaluate the impact of design on employee morale and performance.


In conclusion, cultivating a culture of design can bring numerous benefits to organisations, including better customer experiences, more innovative solutions, and improved overall performance. To do so, organisations must prioritise design thinking, provide ongoing training and support, and foster a collaborative and supportive environment. By doing so, they can drive innovation, improve the user experience, and achieve better business outcomes. And remember, design is not just about making things look pretty; it’s about solving problems in a creative, effective and human-centred way.

If you’re looking to cultivate a culture of design within your organisation, consider working with a UX coach or UX leadership coach. As such, I can provide ongoing guidance and support to help your employees develop the soft skills and design thinking needed to create exceptional user experiences and drive business success. Contact me to learn more about how I can help your organisation build a design culture that empowers your employees to solve problems in innovative and effective ways.

Further Reading

Design Thinking. IDEO.

Sheppard, B., Sarrazin, H., Kouyoumjian, G. & Dore, F. (2018). The business value of design. McKinsey Quarterly.

Moran, K. (2020). Three Myths About Calculating the ROI of UX. Nielsen Norman Group.

May, T. (2021). Why designers need soft skills more than ever to thrive. Creative Boom.