McKinsey & Company combines design capabilities to launch McKinsey Design

16 November 2018 4 min. read
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Big Three strategy firm McKinsey has formally entered the design world with the launch of its McKinsey Design business unit. McKinsey Design is built on the bedrock of three premier design firm acquisitions – Lunar, Carbon12, and Veryday – and has a current headcount of 350 designers, engineers, and thinkers across 10 cities.

According to McKinsey & Company – one of the world’s top management consultancies – design matters. “As a discipline, design is more than pleasing the eye,” the firm’s website relates. “It’s the heart of a holistic approach to deeply understanding customers in order to better meet their needs.” For McKinsey, that means combining creative talent, rigorous analytics, and engineering expertise to design products, services, and experiences that create value for clients and their customers.

Global spending on design services is surging, with the market reaching $40.7 billion. What’s more, the industry – which includes offerings like product and model design, user interfaces, and interaction design – is projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.4% between 2017 and 2023.

From a more bounded strategy and operations approach, wherein serious men in suits would advise you on how to scientifically manage your widget factory and supply chain, management consultants have grown outward to encompass increasingly more business lines. Transformations require a holistic view, they might say, and the successful completion of their strategy for your corporate growth involves the perfect execution of a new Big Data-powered process, an on-point marketing communications plan, and a rock solid product design.McKinsey combines design capabilities to launch McKinsey DesignThe cross-selling synergies are real, and the market is there for trusted consultancies. So now, that McKinsey consulting engagement may entail working with a team of clear-frame-spectacled folks in black turtlenecks, advising you on how to make your widget look as good as an Apple product.

The strategy consulting firm has now officially launched its McKinsey Design arm, further expanding its service line and answering explosive demand for design-related requests from clients. The new unit sits abreast of the firm’s core strategy consulting business, alongside other divisions like McKinsey Digital, and McKinsey Solutions.

“It's no secret that design is increasingly a source of competitive advantage and business value,” Benedict Sheppard, a Partner in McKinsey’s London office, said of the new unit. “In a world of fierce competition, products, and services that are well-designed – working better as well as looking better – have a critical edge.”

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Sheppard added, “Things that used to be separate in the business world are converging, and the consumer's experience has to be seamless. Service plus digital plus physical. That is not easy to deliver... If we bring design capabilities to pieces of strategy and operations, then we can do something quite extraordinary.”

The company first breached the design realm when it acquired industrial design firm Lunar in 2015. Founded in 1984, Lunar added design studios in San Francisco, Chicago, Hong Kong, and Munich to McKinsey’s footprint. 18 months later, McKinsey added boutique design firm Carbon12, absorbing studios in Austin and Mumbai. A month later, the consultancy acquired Swedish design agency Veryday, bolstering its capabilities further with over 90 designers and engineers based in Stockholm and New York. Founded in 1969, Veryday has won over 240 awards and has been granted more than 300 patents.

McKinsey Design’s 350 employees will offer clients top-level services in product, experience, and service design. The product design offering will include rapid prototyping before final design, along with commercial case, manufacturing plan, and market-entry platform services. Experience design, meanwhile, will utilize agile methods to create customer experiences that drive customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and employee engagement. Finally, the firm’s service design offering will use a human-centred focus to meet customer needs that occur at multiple touchpoints – including online, offline, and with physical products.

Though McKinsey is notoriously tight-lipped about its client roster, client-side leaks have revealed that the company’s design arm already works with heavyweights like Apple, HP, Motorola, Philips, and Porsche. The design unit will compete with industry incumbents like IDEO, Frog Design, Designworks, Artop, Designaffairs, Ammunition, ZIBA Design, Fuse Project, and R&D Design.