Oliver King on Design-led Change


Oliver King from Engine in the UK has been a perennial feature of the service design conference landscape for nearly a decade. His keynote focused on getting the right services to market through design-led change. Not about doing things as quickly as possible, but doing the right things as quickly as possible.

He articulated seven aspects of design-led change:

1. A compelling vision overcomes uncertainty. Design helps with aligning stakeholders, choosing directions and looking at the bigger picture. This inspires people to embrace the change.

2. Beautiful design connects emotionally. This point echoed Don Norman’s observation in Emotional Design that attractive things really do work better.

3. Design can provide clarity to stakeholders and reassure them about adopting a particular solution. Broad support means faster adoption with fewer changes.

4. Making ideas tangible and well-crafted helps them get to market faster. This echos the observation by Bill Buxton in Sketching User Experiences that “once something seems real, making it real is a lot easier.”

5. Following on that point, design-led change helps to structure the best conditions for getting to market quickly. It helps people remain engaged and motivated and creates the conditions for success.

6. He made the observation that projects with a clear design process help to motivate employees. As important as it is for customers to be engaged, the needs of the service providers also need to be considered. Engaged employes are more productive and more likely to solve problems.

7. Finally, well realized outputs build confidence in the value of design. I like the formulation that “quality invites ambition.” The things created in the process matter not only because of their immediate utility but because the act of making them reinforces the value of the process.

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