The impact design graduates can make in the banking sector

You would expect creative agencies to look for design graduates, but have you considered other sectors such as banking? 

November 23 2017
The impact of design graduates

A decade ago, creativity was at the bottom of the top 10 skills wish list but today it is near the top. This growth in demand for creative skills and design skills across what Design Council terms the "design economy" has been revealed through its forthcoming ground-breaking research "Designing a Future Economy: Developing design skills for productivity and innovation".

Someone not surprised to hear this is Peter Fullagar, who leads global innovation projects for brands including Sony, Coca-Cola and Unilever at agency Kinneir Dufort. Peter has spent much of his 15-year career in design and creativity. “[Kinneir Dufort’s] work is at the intersection of several disciplines,” he says. “It is not just one person’s responsibility to design and be creative. We are holistic in our view. We are made up of different people – designers, researchers, technologists, engineers and more.” 

Looking for new talent that can support this aspiration is sometimes challenging, which is why Design Council have set up Design Academy. An innovative new approach to support design, engineering, business and science students to develop the skills that employers are demanding now and in the future.

Agencies like Kinneir Dufort, aim to create value through products and experience and they work on all stages of a project, from the start of the innovation and design process to the engineering of the product.

“To be successful in the future, you need to think about what the products or services of the future will look like and what [they] will do for people. How are you going to add value to people’s experiences and where is the need coming from?” he says.


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The involvement of people in the design and innovation process and the importance of stakeholder engagement are also crucial, according to Fullagar.

When recruiting, Fullagar and the team look “for people who believe there is a different way – a better way – to deliver products and services. This person is not content with the ways things are.”

As students of Design Academy testify, the programme is challenging traditional notions of design – alerting them to new and different ways they can apply their design skills and reframing them in the context of global scale issues that need radical approaches to innovation.

Daisy Parks, an alumnus of Design Academy who recently graduated in fashion from Nottingham Trent University says of her experience “[Design Academy] has changed my understanding of design. The programme opens your mind, and makes you think of solutions to problems that you may have never known existed. It has allowed my employers to see that I understand design as something that can have a positive impact on people’s lives.”

Another alumnus of the programme, Thomas Rickard, currently studying product design at Brunel University found Design Academy had a profound impact on his employment prospects, “Design Academy is probably a significant factor in my having secured a placement [at a consultancy in Amsterdam specialising in the Internet of Things], it will also continue to look great on my CV. The biggest difference the programme has made is in terms of employability.”

Fullagar states, “you also need to be able to collaborate. You might be taught as independent designers but in the real world you will have to work in teams and add value from your particular perspective. We need people who can collaborate, and not everyone is good at this.”

The team at Kinneir Dufort use the Double Diamond (a tool to support design-led innovation) by Design Council, and taught on the Design Academy programme, to guide them but they increasingly apply “sprint methodology” (working on projects in a shorter space of time) when working on new briefs. This helps them to remain loyal to the design and innovation process but also get to the result more quickly. Doing things multiple times but in a tight timeframe allows them to mitigate risks early in the process.

While Kinneir Dufort is a company that you would traditionally think to head for as a design graduate, design skills are now in high demand in all sectors including banking.

As Design Council’s research "Designing a Future Economy: Developing design skills for productivity and innovation" highlights, the companies and organisations that will drive Britain’s future economic growth will require people who have experience of working in teams, working across specialisms and are comfortable being creative. It makes clear that future economic growth will be driven by design skills.

“We started by taking over 20 of our senior managers to train in design thinking – people who had never thought they’d be interested in design and we are setting up training for many more,” says Clive Grinyer, director of service design for Barclays.

Grinyer, a product designer by background, has created and led teams across user interface and customer experience for more than two decades. Four years ago, he joined Barclays as customer experience director working with design and innovation projects across the bank. Much of his role today is training banking people to be design people.  

“We find working with graduates exciting and they become our advocates,” he says. “They have infected the bank rather brilliantly with design thinking and it has been impactful.”

Since Barclays has embedded design thinking, it has gone from strength to strength. It is now a strategic tool that Barclays is using to shape the customer experience. The bank is “humanising technology” and Grinyer says that it needs designers to accomplish this. Design at Barclays is mainly about finding out who our customers are and finding out that they are different to what many people think. Understanding our customers and designing the customer experience is important to Barclays. We are making banking about people and what matters to them.”

Barclays has also used the Double Diamond method and Grinyer says it has been a powerful tool in explaining design to senior management and everyone at Barclays. “In some industries, they just start building – without finding stuff out first because they want to go fast, but this makes no sense at all as it will take you 20 times longer to fix it after you have built it and a lot more money than if you just spent a bit of time getting it right at the start. 

“The Double Diamond explanation of design is a powerful tool to help people understand that thinking about customers and what they want is critical to guide us and to help us get it right.”

As more designers join banks, Grinyer explains what he looks for in a designer. “Curiosity. I like people that do not wait for a brief. I also like people who are prepared to challenge. To say that this is not good and we can do better. And finally, I want to see desire and passion.” 

Looking back on his career to date, he says there are a few things he would tell his graduate self, including to “be braver”.

The skills needed for a career in banking have certainly changed. But that’s because everything has changed in banking. “We don’t bank like we did a decade ago,” he says. “The workforce is changing and the skills needed in banking are changing and there is a big need for designers.”

Read more: IBM and Google on why design graduates are crucial to their industry

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