As we continue on our disruptive journey together there are some interesting words that bring either a great deal of emotion to the reader or in this case, a different definition by each person you ask. Design. One question would be to define it but I actually think the discussion of who “owns” design will bring clarity to what it means and what purpose it serves.

Design for many is a creative only endeavor. It’s owned by those people able to maximize the right side of their brain. It’s about visual appeal and aesthetics. Now walk down the hall and ask the Enterprise Architect on the eCommerce team who owns design. He or she might talk to you about things like Information Design (Taxonomy) or Architectural Design or how they’re designing the Infrastructure to be more agile given seasonality. No mention of style guide or brand or tone of voice. Now pick up your notepad and walk down to someone who works in Human Resources or is a leader in a key business unit. What about design for them? Is it about Architecture or Look & Feel? No, it might be about Business Process Design or Service Design. Designing their call support organization to better support a shift to more online sales.

I suppose I could keep going but my point is that / Design / is not really owned by a single person. Each role and/or function in a company is involved in design. The real issue is that each / designer / thinks about his or her direct responsibility, myopically. We have seen the shift from company to ‘consumer’ and in this world where digital exposes our organizational design flaws, service design flaws, architectural design flaws and more its apparent to me that Design is owned by everyone and the customer, and the “why” is at the center.

So if you hear someone say they own design I would suggest a deep breath and then start asking questions. How does their design support the customer? How does their design integrate with the design elements of their peers (who are interestingly supporting the same customer experience!)? What is their design process and how do they get perspectives – if you’re technical how might you get a business process, service design and creative design perspective from a human-centered customer obsessed perspective?

Do not let your organizational design dictate how you achieve success. Do not let design be relegated to a group or worse a person. Ensure that design is a belief system and that everyone owns design unified around customer and company outcomes.

A bit of a soapbox for a Tuesday morning but we put words in front of design that some how end up putting a box around it that fit on our MBO’s.

Let design be free, collaborate more than you ever have, ask people you would never have thought to engage and maybe, just maybe throw in a customer conversation!