Design Systems Thinking

Design Systems Thinking


by amanda dixon
published may 24 2018

It is no longer enough to just sell a product or service; companies need to engage with their customers. As shown in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Judi Dench realized that business needed empathy in order to be successful. This is important in trying to sell a product or service, but the experience of interacting with the product or service has been taking over the business world as well. People are starting to realize how important the experience is, and it has reached the point where companies big and small are starting to focus more on experience than the quality of the product itself. “According to the Design Management Institute’s Design Value Index, for example, design-driven companies have maintained a significant stock-market advantage, outperforming the S&P 500 by an extraordinary 219 percent over the past ten years.”

We can clearly see the value in empathy and experience, so it is important to see the breakdown of the empathy and experience in order to best exemplify it in your own business. The four categorical breakdowns include: really knowing your customer, bringing empathy to the organization, designing in real time, and acting quickly. In order to be successful in knowing your customer, you need to employ designers that are in touch with empathy, and communication. This is where you will get a lot of customer feedback through interviews, and the plot points of customer decision journeys to understand exactly what motivates people, what bothers them, and where there are opportunities for creating good experiences. In order to bring empathy to the organization, it is suggested to consider customer lifetime value, real-time customer satisfaction by segment, and “leaky bucket” ratios to highlight where customer issues may be spiking. The goal of this is to track the depth of the relationship between customer and brand over time, and maintaining that same relationship. To design in real time means to employ the idea of a braided design model where design, strategy, and technology all intertwine with one another to create a good business. Now this can be daunting to a business owner because it will require a lot of skill sets and employees, so in order to get the essentials, it is suggested that you “set up a war room from day one and bringing in people from design, engineering or IT, operations, and project management who are committed to the process.” This is described as the four walls, and it is designed for the purpose of creating cross-functional teams that have different points of interest to create a well-rounded business. The last point is to act quickly and create designs, prototypes, and final products quickly; this means that businesses focus more on the aesthetic and overall experience of the product or service and sometimes the actual product or service does not live up to its hype.

In my personal opinion, I do not believe in the last point to act quickly. I believe that businesses should not conduct themselves in this way because it is important to have the trust with the customers, and if you are just going to make a crappy product, you are more than likely to loose more customers and their loyalties. In addition, this point will cause so much more waste in the world, and I would hate to see it go under because companies want production to be held higher than the relationship with the customers.


Kilian, Jennifer, et al. “Building a Design-Driven Culture.” McKinsey & Company,