“Start with identity”, and other punchlines from Digitalist Design Forum 2017

Designing holistic brand experiences was the leading theme in Digitalist Design Forum 2017 event that was organized in Helsinki 16th of November. I got a chance to listen three of the speakers; Andreas Rosenlew, Päivi Svens and Bart Ahsmann. But before going into the topic, let’s praise the event itself a little bit; I think Digitalist Design Forum was a great example of a holistic brand experience; the event was organized very well and attention was paid in every detail – it is great to see that the organizer does what it preaches.


The CEO of Design Forum Finland, Petteri Kolinen, opened the event by sharing his story how Martela’s brand experience was redesigned. Kolinen explained that old manufacturing company’s brand experience was designed with “identity-first” approach; Martela’s WHY was found from “inspiring spaces”, HOW was built around inspiring concepts such as “inspiring schools” & “inspiring offices” and WHAT was actual products and services. He argued that the key in finding the brand core (WHY) was to involve people in the designing process. He stated that when the core represents the values it is real, and it can only be real if the people can participate into the process of finding the core. Kolinen explained that the core is the heart of the brand.

Kolinen’s thoughts are familiar from Simon Sinek’s concept: Start with why. Sinek has inspired many by his theory where he advises that companies should start by having a clear vision of WHY they exist; only by doing so leaders can truly inspire others to follow – in Kolinen’s words WHY means creating the identity or core of the brand.

Andreas Rosenlew, Executive Brand Advisor & Managing partner in Grow Partners, had somewhat provoking presentation under the title “Brand-Driven Customer Value Design – E2EO2O – is the engine of demand growth”. He started by arguing that there is “silent bubble” happening at the moment with the hype that is created around buzzwords like service-ux-mvp-design, and compared it to the .com-bubble. Rosenlew explained that there are service designers and similar starting single projects around customer-centricity but all in all not that many companies can actually pull thing together and bring actual value out of it. He pointed out that the aim of design should always be to design holistic and sustainable value in relationships between people and brands; “with generic insights, there are generic services”. He explained that in order to achieve a holistic view, a designer must consider all aspects of the value: functional, experiential, social and financial. Rosenlew crystallized that by bringing design in the heart of the company, holistic brand experiences can be built. He also stated that every company nowadays is B2BC2C company.

Päivi Svens, Head of Marketing in Fazer Lifestyle Foods, shared her story about how Fazer Candy brand experience was re-designed, under the title “Strategic capability with a Design know-how”. She explained how the design team was put together with an aim to make the company’s processes more efficient. By doing so, understanding how the processes were build and what to do in order to design more efficient processes, the team was actually able to take the Fazer’s design to a whole new level overall. By reasoning the design capabilities with a business case, a new design strategy was build. Examples of Fazer’s new branding that has won design awards here.

Bart Ahsmann, the Director in CLICKNL and the President in BEDA, introduced “Key elements for future fit design expertise”. He presented a roadmap that somewhat showcased designers’ future ecosystem. “The top sector Creative Industry drafted this Knowledge & Innovation Agenda with the unique skill set of the creative professional and the challenges in society in mind.” The agenda is divided into three roadmaps, first roadmap intorducing the knowledge base themes: Design for change, Value creation and The Human touch. The roadmaps can be connected to societal challenges and domains in the agenda arising specific research questions. This way the framework links multidisciplinary foundation-laying research together with pratical applied research. More information about the agenda here. Download the framework here.

The key findings from the Digitalist Design Forum part 1 are:

  • Start with identity – the WHY of the brand
  • New kind of culture of collaboration is needed in order to create holistic brand experiences
  • The aim of design should always be to design holistic and sustainable value in relationships between people and brands; “with generic insights, there are generic services”
  • Every company today is a B2B2C2C company
  • A hard side of design is needed in order to build a business case
  • Without holistic view on design, brand may go into silos
  • Future topics for research: Design for Change, Value Creation and the Human Touch

Information about Digitalist and upcoming events here, and the video recordings here. Btw, the quality of the streaming in this event is top-notch!

This blog post was written by,
Emmi Kinnunen
SID student

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