Coat hangers can be sexy too …

As you might have noticed in my previous posting the difference between the two definitions on Design Leadership is the level of abstraction.

While Design Leadership is clearly about the big issues like “strategic intent” or “strategic direction” the success rate of it manifests itself in “designed” solutions which can be “experienced” and which create economic value.

When it comes to illustrating Design Leadership it’s always easy to refer to Apple Computer. However David used a “not so cool” but quite interesting case study in order to illustrate what Design Leadership can actually mean. He referred to the UK retailer “Peacocks” selling clothing, footwear and homewear. Today Peacocks has over 425 stores throughout the UK and employs over 5000 people in the UK and and in franchises overseas in Turkey, Bahrain and UAE.

The design issue at Peacocks some years ago has been to change the design of the company’s coat hangers and re-think the stock hanging approach. To make a long story short, at the end of the project the company afforded a refit investment of a total of GBP 1.5m while being able to reduce Unit costs per hanger from 13 pence to 5 pence! Additionally the hangers could be re-used up to 6 times each. If you consider that the company has been selling some 60m items per year this resulted in considerable cost savings. Furthermore labour costs have been reduced by GBP 2m/per year which is an equivalent of 400.000 working hours simply due to a more effective box-to-hanger process. In total this project can be truly called a “success”

Interestingly this initiative hasn’t been led by any trained designers, but by a Marketing Manager at Peacocks and a Marketing Director of Plasti-Form  the manufacturer of the hangers. So what kind of insight does this short case hold for us?

Firstly, design is not exclusive to designers, but rather a question of value creation. Secondly, and this counts even more in the light of the emerging field of experience design, value creation is not limited to brand design only. Thirdly, and this has been David’s conclusion from this case:

  • Design Leadership is not just about external issues like: Brand, Product or Visuals, etc.
  • Design Leadership explicitly considers the internal focus as well like: Supply Chain, Production Process, Service Chain, Customer Experience, etc.

Consequently, the curriculum at the Zollverein School addresses both areas with equal importance.

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