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Step 1: How Design Can Deliver

Step 1: Ask, Listen, and Learn.

Design offers great value to organizations. Recent reports from Fjord, InVision, and McKinsey have clearly and quantifiably demonstrated why design makes good business sense. At the Institute of Design (ID) we wanted to take the next practical, aspirational step.

Design—not why, but how?

Since we know why design is valuable to today’s organizations, we begin instead with the next question: How? This question sets us on the path of uncovering the changes design needs to make in order to maximize its promised value to organizations.

To that end, our study investigated all the corollaries of the central how:

  • How can design deliver the greatest value to organizations, now and in the future?
  • How can design operate at scale? What does efficient scale really look like?
  • As basic competencies in design become standard for employees, how must those skills expand in the upcoming years?
  • How will design job descriptions change?
As we enter an era in which organizations more clearly and prominently value design, we need to understand how design can function most productively within them—how it can consistently create value and have the greatest positive impact.

We intentionally sought input from a mix of organizations—a variety of types, sizes, and businesses. We talked to representatives of consumer packaged goods, manufacturing, financial services, real estate, healthcare, and other industries. We wanted to find out what supports and hinders organizational scaling today. How can organizations gain the most benefit from design over the next three to five years? Most notably, we included the voices of middle managers (director- and managerial-level professionals) who scale design work within their organizations.

For executive leaders, designers, human resource professionals, team leads, and others, this report on the ID Pathways Study will demonstrate the role of design and designers in shaping an organization’s future.

As you will learn in this report, our interviewees helped us:


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Understand our research methodology.

Students from the Institute of Design (ID) and professional researchers from Sylver Consulting conducted qualitative, one-on-one, 60-minute interviews with 51 US design and/or business practitioners—the study’s respondents—in early 2019.

Hear from our diverse respondents.

Interviewees included business professionals with some level of design training or knowledge (~60% of sample), as well as professionals without that training who work regularly with their organization’s design practice (~40%). (See the appendix of this report for complete details of the study’s sample.)

Put our findings to work for your organization.

This report not only documents important observations, messages, and ideas provided by the respondents to the ID Pathways Study, it also outlines ways to make their valuable input—the findings of the study—actionable for your organization and the people you serve.