MONDAY 14 NOV 2022 10:02 AM


Creativity and innovation requires flexibility, dedication, resilience and, above all, patience. Dave Dunlop, partner and chief design officer at ELSE London, describes how periods of change are important for innovation and growth.

In the UK, autumn has enveloped us. Change is clearly visible: falling leaves marked the end of our annual growing season and the time to celebrate our Harvest Festival, the day of thanksgiving held on the Sunday closest to the autumn equinox. The success of the crop our farmers have been able to harvest depends entirely on their work, and the environmental conditions, during the previous year. 

Change is the fertile field in which we designers love to work — turning the soil, planting seeds for the future, and nurturing new ideas with the aim of yielding bountiful harvest for our clients. Stretching the metaphor further, like those farmers who depend on what they grow and work throughout the year towards a successful crop, we cannot afford to rely only on hope when it comes to the value we create through our design work. Every stage — from uncovering new possibilities through to delivering effective innovations — is as important as the next.

Not only do we have to design the right solution to deliver impact — in the right place, at the right moment — but we have to nurture the environment around the change to give it the best possible chance of success. That’s why, at ELSE, we are as focused on supporting the change makers in organisations as we are on designing products and services that work.

On a recent project for which ELSE won a Digital Impact Award, we were asked by the digital lead's senior team at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines to explore how we might reflect in the digital experience what makes a cruise with Fred. Olsen so exceptional — through more personalised, hand-crafted journeys. With digital only accounting for a small portion of total bookings, here was an enormous opportunity to unlock significant growth. Yet, within the business, those driving the shift towards digital needed support, to make a case for what would be a significant investment in this previously under-utilised channel. Understandably, senior leadership wanted to see what impact we could make before supporting a greater vision for change.

Within a limited scope initially, we had to turn the soil to find the right opportunities and plant the correct seeds that would deliver the most impact. From re-designing the navigation structure, re-claiming the homepage for cruising, improving data capture opportunities and adding more excitement to landing key pages, the results surpassed all KPIs. 

As importantly, we were able to support the digital team at Fred. Olsen with their case for change: showing how our effective innovation, even on a small scale, could deliver revenue growth. We’ve since gone on to work together on a much broader project to define and deliver a whole new user journey through identifying new opportunities for growth across the entire web digital estate.

Those who grow our food learn to thrive in changeable conditions. It takes remarkable creativity, strategy, adaptability and skill. Above all, it requires an unwavering focus on outcomes. Like them, whether we’re working with leaders of change starting up a new company, or within a global enterprise, our success is defined by delivering desired outcomes — weeks, months or years from now. We plant the seeds of future growth today, and design to delivering tangible results for our clients, in all weathers and through all seasons.