In the old days, some company leaders acted like design was sugar coating. They tended to put all sorts of other considerations first, such as operational costs, production flow or ugly but practical functionality. Design was practically window dressing, added as an afterthought. Those days are long gone.

Pat Schiavone, VP of Design for Whirlpool, outlined the new approach to design among B2B brands. “We’re changing from being a manufacturing-based company to being a product company,” he said. “Why change? Because good design is very profitable.” Across industries, design thinking is taking hold as a better way to speak directly to the ideal clients and other intended stakeholders while establishing a firmer foundation for brand consistency.

What is Design Thinking?

Instead of starting from an engineering or financial standpoint, design thinking encourages business leaders to begin with customer perception. David Kelley, founder of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and the requirements for business success.”

Design thinking incorporates interdisciplinary cooperation, judgment-free brainstorming and rapid prototyping. It has also proven to be essential for today’s organizations that seek to keep up with and engage with millennials.

design thinking

Why Design Matters So Much to Millennials

Design thinking has proven effective at setting the agenda for innovative companies like Apple, as well as reinvigorating profits at more traditional organizations like healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente and big-box retailer Walmart. It has helped them to streamline operations, identify costs and improve UX, which translates directly into improved brand equity.

The explosive proliferation of global competition and the precision of personalization have left an indelible mark, particularly on millennials, in terms of how consumers view brands. Consumers can now expect more because their preferred brands can deliver a better experience with better design.

The Cost of Entry

Michele Serro, CEO of, learned from her customers that, “For millennials, design is not a differentiator — it’s a cost of entry. Every startup looking to re-imagine broken industries, whether it’s housing or health care, has one thing in common: well-designed experiences. And every established giant within that same system tends to be plagued by the reverse.”

One of the defining challenges facing B2B brands now is that bad design or the lack of design thinking can reflect poorly on how the brand is perceived. Brand equity has an intangible quality but it also carries a very real value. For a company like Goldman Sachs, a recent brand refresh that delivered around 3 percent improvement to their brand equity amounted to roughly $8.75 billion.

How to Achieve Design as Competitive Advantage

Excellence in branding all comes down to being memorable. Strong design in branding and operations sets a company apart and delivers conversions. That’s where we excel. Novation Consulting is a global agency dedicated to generating marketing solutions based on rich, proactive market research. We bring in experts on graphic design, web design, visual branding and visual storytelling to maximize your brand appeal. All the way from brand development to corporate rebrand, all of our projects are fueled by creative collaboration that blends in whatever makes your company remarkable and unforgettable. Contact us for help with design thinking and branding strategy ideas to make sure your preferred audience sees your company in a brand new light.

Author Sana Tayeb

As the Co-founder and Creative Director of Novation, Sana Tayeb helps organizations emerge to dominate their industries through digital marketing and fully integrated branding campaigns. Her core strategy for small business marketing is to blend creative problem solving with an analytic approach. The result is a brand strategy that spurs growth.

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