Great design leaders help others, whether within their team, department, or customer base, achieve their goals. This is what I saw at the 2018 AIGA Leadership Retreat in Baltimore, Maryland. Design leaders from all over the country came together to share and glean insights to gain confidence and tactical skills to deliver valuable user experiences.

As a part of the event’s agenda, we heard talks from technology giants such as IBM and HP, highlight the power of digitization in the world of design. In today’s rapidly evolving landscape, leveraging technology is a large part of anyone’s role, including designers. And the more adeptly one is able to wield those technical tools, the more they stand out among their peers.

Designers are at the beginning of a renaissance with technology and tools emerging that will make the creative process more powerful and efficient and will aid in directly linking creativity with business results.

To explore these empowering capabilities, Danaher’s Product Identification Platform, including Pantone, MediaBeacon, Esko, X-Rite, AVT, Laetus and Videojet, along with Randy Herbertson, Principal of The Visual Brand and founder of AIGA’s Connecticut chapter, held a workshop to help leaders understand how enterprise systems can help design leaders scale their design process and explain it with confidence. Using the Digital Maturity Mode for Brand Packaging, this workshop touched on several core competencies from AIGA’s Leadership Framework: Operations, Execution, and Vision & Strategy.

Companies that utilize design as a business strategy separate themselves from the crowd and pull ahead of their competitors. According to the Design Management Institute, design-driven companies have outperformed the S&P Index by 219% over 10 years.

Clearly more than just pleasing aesthetics, design is at the core of brand identity and equity, and technology is an enabler to deliver these experiences.

Designers should not fear technology. There is some pushback from some in the design community who may ask, “Once design tools become intelligent or sophisticated enough, why will designers still be needed? Why would I want to make myself obsolete?”

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But fear not. Designers will never go out of style. As new technologies continue to emerge and evolve, so will designers. Design’s purpose is to make consumer or user experience more enjoyable and simpler, which is something that ultimately requires the vast range of soft skills that designers bring to the table.

Strategic tools in the hands of designers are a catalyst for change and save time so designers can spend more time designing these experiences, rather than spending time on side tasks. By digitizing their creative process and implanting quality tools to enhance delivery capabilities, designers can learn which levers constitute a real business case for disruption and transformation, making them major players as company leadership formulates and executes strategic plans.

When we presented the Digital Maturity Model for Brand Packaging to event attendees, we challenged them to think of packaging value chain technologies as tools to automate menial tasks and enhance their creative capabilities. By using the framework to identify core capabilities and process improvements, designers identify key areas that they can digitize, automate and connect both color technology and workflow software tasks together.

As design leaders look for ways to set their brands apart, they will need to be ready to incorporate new technologies that will keep them relevant and responsive, while keeping quality and productivity high.

This is only the beginning, and as the digital age continues to advance and refine itself through innovation, we will see just what today’s designers are capable of.


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