Why you should integrate design into your customer experience

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” – Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO.


If you have a business problem – improving a retail product, enhancing your customers’ experience with your service, or developing a stronger strategic direction – you can use design thinking to help reach a solution.

The process can be broken down into three key phases – discover, invent, and evaluate. Jo’Anne Langham, an academic at UQ Business School, and former Senior Director of Research and Intelligence for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), says the ‘discover’ phase is about insights beyond numerical data.

“It’s about pulling together what you know beyond ‘the numbers’ – about your people, including staff and clients, your business, your market position, and any problems or opportunities that exist, or may be on the horizon.”

These human-centered insights allow you to postulate, experiment, innovate, and arrive at decisions based on the needs and sentiment of your staff or customers – depending on your particular business focus.

At its core, design thinking is being used to improve everyday experiences. Integrating it into your business strategy can give your business a competitive advantage.

“When done well, you should be considering the future of your business and what your customers want or expect, which prompts you to innovate, instead of simply manage,” Jo’Anne says.

“Depending on your specific business problem or opportunity, the process can result in more satisfied clients and staff, more actively engaged customers, or in a truly seamless and profitable business opportunity.”


Rotterdam Eye Hospital recently applied a design thinking approach to transform their space and services. Incorporating design principles into their planning process, researching, trialling, and evaluating, the hospital successfully transformed the potentially traumatic experience of a hospital stay into a better one for both staff and patients.

The hospital started with patient-first thinking to understand how they experience the space and services.  They made a number of changes – from using imagery to better communicate and inform child patients, to integrating a culture and training program to enhance operations – illustrating the effectiveness of a human centred design thinking approach.

On the contrary, when customers aren’t front of mind - where their needs simply aren’t considered (or aren’t considered highly relevant) - the negative effects can be far reaching. Zach Anner from the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, takes a comedic approach to illustrating how this can play out, when he attempts to get a rainbow bagel from Brooklyn using the New York subway system.

Do you consider the needs of your customers?


"You should be considering the future of your business and what your customers want or expect, which prompts you to innovate, instead of simply manage."
Jo'Anne Langham, UQ Business School