April 3rd 2017

By Vince Frost, Group Chief Executive Officer and Group Executive Creative Director

Three years ago, I ‘hired’ myself to turn my life around.

I was happily immersed in the world of design, where I’d been devoted to helping other people, other businesses to work smarter, connect better, and make a difference to the world around them.

It had taken 25 years of designing and redesigning everything around me before I realised that I could do with a little of that help – to enable myself to live smarter, connect better to those around me, and make my own positive contribution to the world.

The result crystallised into a book I wrote called Design Your Life, which was my attempt to show how applying the principles of design to your own life can help you to assess your path, awaken your vision and, well, pull your finger out.

A changing landscape

Today, as the CEO and executive creative director of Frost*collective, I am still happily immersed in the world of design, but that world is fast a-changing. And businesses – design-based or not – need to work out how they’re going to change (or not) with that. Mine included. So I have found myself again, with my team this time, looking inwards, outwards, every which way, and asking: ‘Where to now?’

In the past, design has perhaps been perceived as solely the province of the black-top-wearing, craft-beer-drinking elite, but it’s now a word on the lips of CEOs, COOs, CIOs and business strategists.

‘Design thinking’ is not a new term, of course, but for businesses traditionally unassociated with the term, it has become a key phrase that identifies the shift they need to make in order to stay competitive.

‘Creativity is becoming more and more important to businesses in Australia and globally,’ says Professor Roy Green, Dean of the UTS Business School, in a powerful video called Mining Creativity. ‘There are many businesses bringing creativity and design thinking as well as analytics to the deployment of competitive advantage.’

For Green, this combination is essential to the growth and productivity of businesses – tapping into creative talent is their way forward.

Fair enough. But if you’re an organisation built around creativity, where design thinking is already your MO, where does your path lie? If businesses that never before considered design thinking are now embracing it, where does that put your contribution? How do you stay competitive and relevant amid this disruption?

Designing a better business 

It’s interesting how disruption can help as much as it hinders. Sure, it can kill you as a business, but it can also provoke new thought and change, and actually have a cohesive effect in an organisation rather than a divisive one.

Disruption is a pain in the ass. But it gets you off yours, and it gets you thinking.

At Frost*collective, we are dedicated to designing a better world. We believe in the power of design to create better experiences, better connections, better journeys that enrich people’s lives.

We’re delighted that creativity and design thinking are finally being seen for their importance in commerce, in designing better experiences and successful outcomes.

A question we always ask ourselves (a question I have never stopped asking myself) is: ‘Could we do better?’ We believe that in order to design a better world, first you need to design a better business. With other businesses turning their focus towards the creative world, there seemed like no better time for us to take a new look at what we do.

As a team, we sat down and applied the techniques of design thinking, for which we are known, to our own organisation – we ‘hired’ ourselves to reposition our business. And so, once again, I have found myself at both ends of the assessment process.

We know we create memorable campaigns. But how do we measure how memorable they are? We know our projects forge strong connections between people and places, people and brands. But how can we evaluate the extent of those connections? We have won awards, certainly, but all the awards in the world can’t tell you if your designs actually make a difference.

And so the realisation came. Just as data- and analytics-driven businesses have come to understand that they need creative talent and innovation to move forward, we acknowledge that as a design-based organisation, we need to embrace the fields of data analysis, insights and consumer psychology to ensure that not only are we delivering brilliant solutions, we are also delivering the best solutions.

Human experience design

At the heart of all we do is our fascination with people – how they live, love, learn, play, work, work out, chill out …

But none of this counts unless we can honestly tap into that ‘how’ – and understand how people experience a brand, why people connect to a brand the way they do, and what about that brand inspires them to action.

This involves a shift in focus that extends beyond the client and their brief to the end customer - the person directly experiencing our clients' brands. This is the person we must understand, so we can design better outcomes that are relevant to them and resonate with them. This, if you like, is our ultimate client. 

Call it design thinking, call it ambition, call it a bunch of OCD creatives looking for a new challenge, but my team and I are driven by the desire to do better. We want our clients to demand better outcomes for their customers. 

Yes, we are fascinated with people, but we believe it is our understanding of people – their behaviour, their motivations, their reactions – that enables us to design better outcomes. We believe it is by designing for human experience that we can truly make a difference.

We want to elevate our understanding of people, gain deeper insights from what we’ve done, so that we can deliver better, more dynamic and ongoing solutions for all our clients.

And so at Frost*collective we are now collaborating with behavioural economics experts, data companies and business strategists to find ways that will enable us to design more effectively. We are looking to find the best possible partnerships to help us go forward and become the best we can be, so we can make our clients’ outcomes even more exceptional.

So, who are we today vs who we were yesterday?

Well, we’re agile and always have been (see above re constant self-analysis). We believe that agility, maybe even vulnerability – and a desire to keep learning, questioning – is essential to designing a better business.

We are and have always been much more than a graphic design company – but thank you, it’s nice to get work for that and we will always deliver on it.

But we can do even better and we want to show you that.

We have evolved into a collective of expert strategists, built-environment specialists, digital innovators and inspired designers who collaborate with businesses to drive change, improve wellbeing and create memorable experiences.

Our agility is reflected in our set-up – we offer many doors to new experiences: Frost* Design, inspiring brands to life for a stronger community connection; Urbanite, creating memorable brand experiences in the built environment; Nest, developing websites, apps and social marketing for better involvement in the digital sphere and using virtual reality experiences to let people be physically present in a non-physical world; and Jack, designing mindful packaging solutions that do more with less.

Every person at Frost believes in the power of ‘human experience design’ – design that understands, responds to and rewards people.

We want to design a better world. And we think we’ve found the right path to help us do it.

Stay tuned …