Can Design Be a Key Revenue Driver? With These Three Strategies, the Answer is Yes

Many companies dramatically underestimate design as a key revenue driver. One of the reasons for this is they perceive design as superficial. “Design is how it looks and feels,” they think, or “Design is what you layer on top of product definition and functionality.” While these definitions aren’t necessarily incorrect, they do little justice to the deeper implications of design. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, design isn’t just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.

In other words, design is inherently integrated into every aspect of a product and every phase of product development. Or, at least, it should be. Research from McKinsey & Company shows a direct connection between a company’s design strength and financial performance. In fact, companies ranking in the top quartile of the McKinsey Design Index Score outperformed industry benchmark growth by as much as two to one. And with this recognition, more and more companies are leveraging design as a competitive differentiator.

At Pivot International, we deliver the world’s top DFM talent to unleash the power of design to drive bottom-line results. Our extensive portfolio of internationally award-winning innovations across fourteen industries puts our customers on the map and ahead of their competitors. From groundbreaking medical devices to industrial innovations to complex consumer electronics, we bring nearly fifty years of experience in product solutions, scalable manufacturing, and advanced supply chain solutions.

How can your company leverage design as a key revenue driver? Here are the top three strategies.

1. Don’t Leave Design to the Designers

Companies that understand the power of design make it a common practice to include the executive team or other key stakeholders in the design process. While an argument can be made that those untrained in design can’t contribute expertise to this conversation, it’s for this very reason that including these individuals can be a highly productive exercise. When designers have to explain an idea or make a case for a particular course of action to stakeholders unversed in design specialties, questions often surface that force them to refine and expand their perspectives.

On the other side of the coin, when designers are involved in critical business decisions, Mckinsey & Company found they are four times more likely to create unique product concepts and assume higher levels of project ownership. The most profitable design-driven companies are so clear about this point that designers often report directly to the CEO. Design collaboration between key stakeholders should be viewed as a best practice, not just operationally but also culturally. When design is approached in this way, it sends a strong message that design is integral to the company’s strategy and DNA.

2. Deploy a Battery of Critical Questions

When asked how he would go about solving a complex problem, Albert Einstein explained, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.” Asking critical questions for the purpose of challenging core assumptions lies at the heart of reconceiving problems and fueling innovative design. Without asking critical questions, the premise on which design decisions rest is not available to examination or rigorous challenge. Too often, design is undertaken in an effort to solve a poorly defined or ill-understood problem. This is why nurturing a climate of questions to reframe the terms of the conversation can pay enormous dividends.

At Pivot, product design begins with a battery of critical questions. Without these kinds of questions, a robust product definition cannot be conceived or a bullet-proof use-case made (and without the latter, an effective map for process execution cannot be created). Our teams bring robust experimentation practices that extend well beyond proof of concept and UX analysis. In this sense, we function as an innovation lab, complete with formalized processes for formulating a design hypothesis, running experiments, and testing results.

3. Integrate Design and Manufacturing

Remember earlier in this piece when we asserted that design needs to be integrated into every phase of product development to unleash its revenue-driving potential? Design for Manufacture (DFM) is what makes this possible. Rather than treating design as only the beginning of the broader product development process, DFM integrates design with end-stage manufacturing and supply chain considerations. The importance of this can’t be overstated and delivers two powerful benefits. First, it ensures that a design can be cost-effectively manufactured at scale. This protects against unforeseen component shortages, unexpected shipping delays, sunk costs, and other risks to ROI. Second, DFM exerts downward adaptive pressures on product design that fuels innovation. When designers have to contend with the constraints of manufacturing technology, they have no choice but to devise novel approaches to overcome them.

As more and more companies are recognizing the revenue-driving potential of design, making the hunt for a partner with advanced design know-how becomes imperative. If you’re looking for a partner with a proven track record of helping clients profitably scale with in-house, industry-leading DFM expertise, Pivot delivers. With nearly fifty years of one-source experience and 320,000 square feet of manufacturing capability across three continents, it’s our business to ensure that your business succeeds. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation. We look forward to working with you!


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