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Generating value through design: from strategy to product

Design—the ability to create the right experience that responds to a real customer need in the correct way—is a core competency that is required by every company. This holds true whether the product you are designing is physical, digital, or more likely in the current era, a combination of the two.

This year, South Summit—the global innovation event that connects start-ups, corporations and investors—held its first panel to specifically address the question of design, and asked Mormedi to organise the panel.

Mormedi brought together four global design leaders to discuss the question of “How to generate value through design: from strategy to product”: Nina Warburton from Philips & Philips Avent, Rod White from TP Vision, Michael E. Smith from Dell, and Daniel Schubert from Vodafone. The panel was moderated by Mormedi’s CEO, Jaime Moreno.

Here is a selection of the panel’s main insights.

Good design tells stories and creates connections

Jaime began by explaining that companies are realizing the power of human-centred design in order to engage with customers and to seamlessly address their needs. He kicked off the panel by asking the panellists to explore what “good design” really means.

Michael’s opinion was that with good design, companies manage to create an emotional connection between the customer and the product, and that “this, of course, brings positive bottom-line results for your enterprise”.

Nina agreed and stressed the importance of design’s higher purpose. “Ultimately it is about making life better for people every day. It is also about money, but design does have a higher purpose, which is to intervene in a way that has a positive impact”.

Daniel said that he judged good design on its ability to, “tell a story about the brand and the attributes it wants to deliver (…) This is very strong in today’s world, where we are so service-driven and where the product doesn’t necessarily communicate its function as it used to”.

Design is the product

Jaime then asked the panellists about how design can be understood by companies to balance the needs of form and function.

Nina responded that, “Ultimately, the thing that people hold in their hands has to delight them, it has to create some emotional connection, otherwise it just remains a functional object”.

Rod pointed out that, to differentiate a product, “you have to understand your brand values and push them through design, then the combination of usability and function come hand in hand”.

Design is not something you just put on a product, it is the product

From product-centric to customer-centric

Jaime pointed out that traditionally, many manufacturers have been product-centric in their philosophy and their work practices, but to survive, companies must transition to become more customer-centric. How can companies face this challenge?

Nina stated that Philips had been at risk of losing contact with their customers due to strict privacy laws, and had therefore carried out an initiative to regain communication with consumers called “Dare to Care”. The strategy is based on three pillars.

  • Radical empathy: to focus teams on truly getting under the skin of the user and trying to see the world from their shoes.
  • Holistic care: to understand the entire cycle around people’s care routines and well-being.
  • Humanizing technology: to make it more relevant to people, easy to understand and make it fit people’s lives.

Michael explained that 15 years ago Dell was still a product-centric company. “We became user-centric 6 or 7 years ago by going out and talking to customers, taking an ethnographic approach to research, and really being intimate with the question trying to design answers.”

Giving design an equal seat at the table

Next, Jaime asked the panel their point of view on how design can deliver a competitive advantage to businesses.

Rod spoke about the crucial role of designers in “connecting UX and products in order to create a fully holistic experience” for users, and Michael explained that at Dell design is a strategic function and not an afterthought, and “design has an equal seat at the table, alongside engineering and marketing”.

Daniel affirmed that for him there is no difference between service, digital or product design. “I’m almost allergic to the difference between UX design and product design because it’s all doing the same thing, they’re solving problems wherever they might be and trying to find solutions for people’s lives”.

Rod spoke about the trend in some tech companies of adding design to their skillset, saying that, “if they really want to add design into their way of working, it has to be part of their business structure and performance indicators”.

Michael Smith agreed, “Design has to be a part of the strategy, not something you have down the road. Design is a part of every business decision. We [designers] are like that three-year-old, always asking: “Why?””.

Finally, Daniel added that smaller tech companies must have trust in the “creative force” that will make them more successful. “The tendency in business is that people want to look at numbers and measure everything […] but, to be honest, in design it’s close to impossible. I think that prototyping for small companies is pure magic. You can have all the business plans, but if you can mock something up: that is just such an amazing driving force. I think having design at the top, helping to develop a vision, is absolutely key”.


There have been numerous studies carried out by organisations including McKinsey and the Design Management Institute that have set out to quantify the business value of design. The question now becomes: how can companies harness this power and make design part of their DNA?

As our panel points out, to generate value through design, it is important that companies talk to their customers, take an ethnographic approach to research, take a holistic view of design (whether UX or product), and make design part of every business decision.

Thank you to our guest speakers and guests for sharing their insights and opinions and to South Summit for their invitation.

To hear more about Mormedi’s events, follow our social media channels. If you want to learn about how Mormedi can help your company succeed in connected products and services, contact us at madridHQ[at]mormedi.com

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