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August 4, 2020

Design-driven brands will lead the Islamic Economy

Brands emerging in the Islamic Economy have a significant opportunity to embrace strategic design. These pioneers will become the major influencers in years to come.

It wasn’t so long ago that design meant logos, posters and brochures. But over the past 10 years we’ve witnessed the rise of a new kind of strategic design; one that brings together design thinking and human-centered design, expanding its focus to include experiences, interactions and services.

As strategic design takes its place as an almost indispensable consideration for business success, we ask: what role can design-led brands play within the Islamic Economy?

The value of being design-driven

The ability of designers to think creatively about challenges and strategies—as well as more familiar areas of design such as products and branding—has led to a new wave of innovative digital products and experiences that have created immense business value and wealth. 

Two key studies have illustrated just how important design is to brands from a business perspective. In 2018, consulting firm McKinsey published its report The Business Value of Design, which included its McKinsey Design Index. The MDI tracked 300 publicly listed companies over a five-year period, collecting more than two million pieces of financial data and recording more than 100,000 design actions. 

Based on four themes of good design – analytical leadership, cross-functional talent, continuous iteration, and user experience – the index rated how strong companies are at design, and how that links with their financial performance. 

Top-quartile MDI scorers enjoyed 32 percentage points higher revenue growth, and 56 percentage points higher total returns to shareholders growth. 

Similarly, the Design Value Index clearly illustrates the advantages for design-led brands. Launched in 2013 by consultancy firm Motiv and the Design Management Institute, the index measures the impact of investment in design in relation to the overall S&P Index. 

The most recent version of the index (2015) was based on a portfolio of 16 publicly traded stocks in the US that met DMI’s criteria for being design-led: Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford, Herman-Miller, IBM, Intuit, Nike, Procter & Gamble, SAP, Starbucks, Starwood, Stanley Black & Decker, Steelcase, Target, Walt Disney, and Whirlpool. 

DMI found that “over the last 10 years, design-led companies have maintained significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 228 percent”.

Design in the Islamic Economy

5Pillars Board Game

Successful brands emerging in the Islamic Economy will need to embrace design thinking and incorporate design strategy from conception. This is especially true for Muslim lifestyle products and creative experiences.

One example of a design-driven brand is 5Pillars, a brand that we built with Zileej and the original founder Ridwan Mohammed. 5Pillars is centered around Islamic education through playful experiences and board games.

Design thinking and strategic branding are closely complemented by Human Centered Design (HCD) which is “a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs,” according to global design company IDEO.

Human-centered design is central to ensuring that the products and services being developed by a company are in tune with what their consumers are looking for.

By taking a human-centered design approach complemented by our heart-centered aspirations, our team leaned on empathy to generate ideas, which we then turned into prototypes tested by target consumers. As a result of this process, we created a brand that was warmly received by a strong community, and sold close to 100,000 board games in three languages in over 25 countries.

LaunchGood: Faith-Based Crowdfunding

LaunchGood is a pioneering tech company that is well-loved by Muslims from all over the world. As a successful faith-based crowdfunding platform that embraces its Muslim identity, it has been design-driven since its inception.

While the success of LaunchGood can be attributed to many factors, their foundational commitment to a design-led approach is clear by the fact that they fulfil all four of "good design" factors identified in the MDI. That is, LaunchGood invests in the role of Chief Design Officer (analytical leadership), employs cross-functional talent, embraces continuous iteration, and takes a human-centered as well as data-informed approach to understanding the experience of their users.

7 years since conception, over US$100 million has been crowdfunded on the platform, with a growing user base and increasingly engaged community of supporters. Click here to see some of the work that we have done together since starting our design partnership.

An emerging responsibility

Brands emerging in the Global Islamic Economy are uniquely positioned to take advantage of strategic design.

When correctly employed, design-driven Islamic brands can communicate their Islamic ethos in a more intuitive way to their target consumers.

Currently, with a few notable exceptions, many Muslim-centric brands understand Islamic design at a superficial level—a dash of Arabic, use of green, and the ubiquitous crescent or geometric tiling. This minimises the depth of impact that can be created by drawing inspiration from the richness and beauty of the Islamic faith.

I look forward to a future when beautifully crafted Muslim-centric brands, products and creative experiences will flourish. We shouldn’t underestimate the positive impact this will have on the world. - Peter Gould

As a global community we need to up our game when it comes to creating brands that embrace strategic design. Beyond growth as a metric of success, as designers we must also ask ourselves: how can we help guide this new generation of brands with deep intentionality? As our world continues chasing progress and the creation of more "things," the role of strategic design anchored by heart-centered aspirations like social and environmental responsibility is becoming ever more important.

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