What is the most powerful aspect of design?

Posted on: 04/03/2022
Group of creatives, innovators and designers having a discussion

This article features insights on the power of design from designers and innovators working in the sector.

The Design Innovation Network is a collective of designers and innovators from across the UK. Together, they’re charged with finding answers to some of the world’s most significant challenges, to help introduce positive change and shape our collective future.

In this article, we asked some of our network members about their views on the power of design.

Jo Barnard | Founder and Creative Director | Morrama

“The most powerful aspect of design is its cross-disciplinary nature. On the one hand, we’re thinking about the user and their needs. The user experience is the emotional aspect of the design. On the other hand, we’re thinking about what can be achieved with materials and manufacturing methods, and it is by bringing those two things together that the magic really happens.”

View Jo’s vox pop video

Ben Peace | Director of Sustainability | Valuechain

“I’ve come to realise design is about thinking bigger, thinking about people factors. Thinking better about people and of course environmental factors too – that’s powerful and that is the mindset that we need throughout the industry.”

View Ben’s vox pop video

Peter Graham | Director | Solutions Thinking

“Being able to change someone’s attitudes or assumptions. It is not always about designing a product or a service. It is about shifting the way we think about the things that we call systems.”

View Peter’s vox pop video

Tim Kerby | Founder & CEO | Edinburgh Systems
“The most powerful aspect of design is its pervasiveness. It is accessible to everyone; all engineers are now having to become designers and adopt many of the tools and techniques to do their jobs.”

View Tim’s vox pop video

Paul Winstanley | CEO | CENSIS

“There is a really important adage about design which is: if it looks right, it is right. I think that’s an important aspect: the confidence that you can that can be generated as a result of a good design is really powerful and compelling.”

View Paul’s vox pop video

Martin Aston | Managing Director | Forvanda Ltd

“Design and Engineering is what unlocks human innovation and converts science to reality. Science has researched the problem and has set the climate challenge, but it is Designers and Engineers that will deliver the solution.”

View Martin’s vox pop video

Joel Freedman | Regional Innovation Manager | Satellite Applications Catapult

“One of the most powerful aspects of design is its ability to bring together people with completely different experience insights and expertise, and create a framework and environment for them to work together collaboratively and productively, to create solutions that never would have come from just one individual set of stakeholders.”

View Joel’s vox pop video

Stuart Kelly | Technical Director | Systolic Ltd

“For me, one of the most powerful aspects of Design is the way that we iterate the design and then build and test and learn and think about it and modify the design and then go through the process again. That way can often result in improvements many times over. It is surprisingly often when you look at the final design – you can see the echoes of the first prototype and the iterations they’ve gone through to make a huge difference to how successful a final design is.”

View Stuart’s vox pop video

Rowan Conway | Visiting Professor of Strategic Design | University College London

“The most powerful aspect of design is fundamentally that you are building the future. There is a flip side to that in that, as they say in Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.” It is very important to recognise the power of the impact … to have the humility to understand the potential impact of what we’re doing … really understanding in the round what other things will happen. Having a more systemic understanding will enable designers to use the power of the prototype which basically makes real the imaginary. Designers play this critical role of taking an idea and turning it into something. Acting with humility will enable that powerful aspect of design to be deployed towards positive change.”

View Rowan’s vox pop video

Barry Warden | Managing Director | Wideblue

“I think there are so many unmet needs and inequalities in society, and design has the power to make a huge difference to people’s lives.”

View Barry’s vox pop video

Merle Hall | CEO | Kinneir Dufort / Founder XXEquals

“The most powerful aspect of design is its ability to make real; to really deliver. Done well design can stay central to every part of the process alongside the user. The passion and energy that comes from great design and great designers is worth a huge amount.”

View Merle’s vox pop video

Clive Grinyer | Head of Service Design | Royal College of Art

“We live in a world of facts and data. Information is all around us, but design takes actions based on that data. Design has a bias for action and for me that is the most splendid and exciting thing about design, and it’s most valuable. We can sit and pontificate, but design says: ‘try it out, experiment, prototype, learn, iterate, do it again, succeed and know when you have succeeded, and you are having the impact you really want to have’. Moving from data to the world of action is I think the unique power of design.”

View Clive’s vox pop video

Fern Auld | Invent Design Build | Graduate Design Engineer

“The most powerful aspect of design is challenging norms to solve societal issues. Great designs have the ability to improve interaction or a broken emotion for more than a lifetime.”

View Fern’s vox pop video

Mark Hester | Co-founder | The Imagination Factory

“Good design is something new and a value to someone. It has the magic of being able to combine both relevancy and differentiation, and it’s the combination of these two things that makes it possible for products to provide a rational service, while also creating an emotional connection: that’s the most powerful aspect of design for me.”

View Mark’s vox pop video

Ivan Pecorari | Lead Experience Designer | Digital Catapult

“We did not discover fire, they designed it. Look around where you are now. How much is natural and how much is artificial? Almost everything you see is being designed. We are in it all the time. Design creates reality and this is powerful and scary at the same time. The Anthropocene, the geological era we are now, is also the age of design. Let’s design it together.”

View Ivan’s vox pop video

Alison Prendiville | Professor of Design for Service | University of the Arts

“The most powerful aspect of design is that it is a bridge builder, it’s able to bring together different stakeholders and actors and actually create knowledge with them to envision new futures and new possibilities and for me, that’s immensely powerful.”

View Alison’s vox pop video

Ellie Wooldridge | Human Insights Team Lead | Connected Places Catapult

“Design can inspire us and get us to think. The approach itself can help us to tackle really complex challenges and also look at some of the real nitty-gritty of the different root causes. It can also result in the creation of something that just makes us not take life too seriously and makes us laugh and stop and smile, which grounds us in our fast-paced world. I think that is also really valuable. I think it’s an ability to use a medium as a platform to understand one another and teach each other things which help connect together better in better ways.”

View Ellie’s vox pop video

Gabriella Spinelli | Reader in Design Innovation | Brunel University London

“I could choose creative thinking or user-centric principle but for this question, I choose the ability design has to make things tangible. Regardless of whether it’s a prototype, a brand, or a diagram representing a new business model, design makes people relate and connect.”

View Gabriella’s vox pop video

William Mitchell | Design Director | 4C Design

“The most powerful aspect of design is the human element of it. It’s the fact that it’s people working with people and in an increasingly digital world where we are being separated from face-to-face and that kind of tactile environment. I think design will always have a place where it can only go so far based on evidence or digital twinning or something. I think the most powerful part of it is at the end of the day, in most cases, design is for humans and therefore humans need to be involved in that process. I think that it’s always going to be for that reason a powerful connector of people and you can’t get much more powerful than that. Getting people to talk to each other, work together and that, is also a very exciting future for design.”

View William’s vox pop video

Abi Hird | Design Innovation Network Lead | Innovate UK KTN

“Careful Design is powerful. It is inherently about externalising our assumptions, putting them out there in sketches, models, diagrams, discussion, and conversation so they can be checked, compared and interrogated, and so our ideas can grow and iterate and evolve. When we apply this approach of externalising our ideas and checking our thinking to some of the most significant challenges we face – whether that be climate change, raw materials, food supply, energy, or inclusion – careful design is our best hope for getting it right.”

View Abi’s vox pop video

Liz Kotoulis | Head of Product | Twipes

“I think the most powerful aspect of design is how it fosters innovation, because if you have a society where every micro aspect is designed beautifully and designed practically, it leads to seamless flow which leads to exponential growth and innovation.”

View Liz’s vox pop video

Rich Wood | Creative Director | Cheddar Creative

“The most powerful aspect of design, well I think that’s a whole thing around engaging people, creating an experience, offering value and enriching people’s lives. Also just looking at problems from different perspectives to really generate some new ideas and new ways of thinking about problems and really boasting the innovation through design thinking and creative problem-solving.”

View Rich’s vox pop video

Get Involved

Find out more about Design Innovation Network, and contact Abi Hird, the Design Innovation Network Lead at Innovate UK KTN, to discuss getting involved and collaborating with this community.

Share this article

Related programme

Innovation Networks

Innovation Networks

Through our Innovation Network programme, we’ve united some of the best minds and greatest thinkers from across the UK in areas of innovation, development and new technologies.


Connect with Innovate UK Business Connect

Join Innovate UK Business Connect's mailing list to receive updates on funding opportunities, events and to access Innovate UK Business Connect's deep expertise. Please check your email to confirm your subscription and select your area(s) of interest.