Is there a design flaw in the C-suite? We set out to find out in our newest set of research, part of our Business Value of Design series, which zeroes in on the role of design leadership. The new report suggests that even with the number of design leaders in executive positions doubling over the past five years (among the world’s top 100 companies), up to 90% of organizations are not maximizing the full potential of this valuable resource. So, what does design leadership lack? Clarity and ambition.
Some surprising figures include:
- 67% of CEOs don’t have metrics they hold their design leaders accountable to
- 90% of CEOs don’t regularly involve design leaders in strategy development
- Fewer than half of design leaders feel their CEO’s fully understand their role
Over the last 6 months, we talked to 200 design chiefs and 100 chief executives to understand the ins and outs of driving design at a strategic level. This new study demystifies the emerging role of “Chief Design Officer,” a position which we’ve seen expand rapidly in the world’s largest companies. The report goes further than simply diagnosing the problem, it provides a clear definition of the skillset and function of a C-suite designer. This role must thoughtfully integrate within the top-team ecosystem, using a combination of incentives and boundaries that balance collaboration and accountability.
Take a look at the collection of content, including the main article, chief design officer role descriptions, a guide to getting started as a new head of design, and a video series that profiles current design leaders.
SF Launch: A moment for design executives
What are the unique contributions design leaders bring to the table? This new research sheds light on the individual backgrounds facing design leaders, the challenges they face, and how they use design to drive strategic priorities within their organizations.
That’s why to launch the report, we gathered a group of 60 design and business leaders in San Francisco to hear from co-authors, Partners Melissa Dalrymple and Benedict Sheppard, as they revealed the findings from the research. Next on the agenda was a panel discussion with Bay Area design leaders, Katie Dill, VP of Design at Lyft, Justin McGuire, Chief Design Officer at Salesforce, and Eliel Johnson, Vice President and Head of User Experience Design and Research at Charles Schwab.
The panelists shed light on the shifting expectations for the design leader today. According to Panelist Eliel Johnson, design is a verb not a job title and democratizing and demystifying the principles of design is necessary for today's ecosystem. “The need for thoughtful design—how something works—that’s how a company interacts with their customers. Design is business theory for the 21st Century,” he says.
Design leaders today have the ability to champion design more broadly throughout their entire organization and CEO’s have a responsibility to prioritize and equip themselves with the tools to make design roles truly sing. We’re excited to dive deeper into this research and hear thoughts from our community.
To view the full panel discussion, watch below.