Evolving the role of Design at MGA&D

October 27, 2015

For over 100,000 years, humans have been designing tools, technology and artifacts to solve problems and make a better living. Hunting, farming, housing, health, trade and every major aspect of our lives involves the use of a multitude of artifacts. Indeed, design has played a crucial role in the very evolution of the human species. It has enabled us to build cities, harness the power of nature and develop civilization as we know it today.

It has been about a century since product design was established as field of study and practice. Since then, many design movements have come and gone and design is more prevalent than ever before in our lives. From sleek cars and hi-tech gadgets to lifestyle goods and Christmas gifts, there has been an explosion of designed artifacts. In today’s competitive business arena, design is seen as a differentiator, a value addition tool to businesses, brands and their product lines.

Design continues to evolve. We are on the cusp of another era of design which harkens back to its roots of providing transformative solutions. This is through its foray into the design of services, business strategy, governance and beyond. In the driver’s seat of this opportunity is the need for leaders and facilitators who are experts in having a broad, holistic, empathetic approach.

We live at a time when ‘specialization’ has been encouraged, funded and ‘subject matter experts’ are nurtured to fill managerial positions. Boardrooms of organizations today comprise of people of specialization, experience and a focused approach. Experts that have deep knowledge of their specific fields are sought after and our education systems have evolved to support this. This has contributed to the development of great bodies of knowledge and skill. All of this has the potential to propel our societies into a better state of living by leaps and bounds. However, organizations, as they grow, find themselves working in silos where bodies of knowledge exist unconnected and unharnessed until it is chanced upon. We are at a point where the systems that exist to harness this potential are playing catch-up and seem outdated.


Success stories of agile, close-knit entrepreneurial companies that have disrupted the status quo of large, but slow moving corporate firms have ushered in the need for merging of the silos at the management level. The terms ‘innovation’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘customer focused’ are becoming management mantras, making them a precursor to sustainable growth. The need of the hour is for more organizations, both large and small, to support a work ethic that is cross-functional, infused with empathy for the people they serve. This sea change in work ethic needs to be championed with the right leadership and strategies.

The design professions have deep experience in operating at the intersection of business, engineering, art, law and society. Along with being responsible for designing new, aesthetic, functional and viable artifacts, they have, by default, the role of championing the cause of the user. By necessity, design methods have evolved to collaborate with various stakeholders of a project and conduct user research. This, along with an iterative approach to problem solving empowers us to connect seemingly unconnected dots, aiding in the creation of innovative ideas that appeal to people and satisfy business goals. Further, our capacity for visualization of collective ideas allows for insightful visions of desirable future states of a project.

Designers find themselves uniquely positioned to tackle complex problems that involve many stakeholders and variables. Good designers while being experts, bring to the table a holistic approach with a willingness to scout for the best ideas. This is slowly but surely being recognized and designers that are strategic thinkers are taking on the role of facilitators of transformative business strategies. Business and government are prime elements of systems that harness the potential of research and knowledge to make them work for the public. The faculties of design are best suited to draw on the strengths of the specialists in the industry to envision viable, brighter futures for these systems. The role of the new age designer has evolved from being form-givers and problem solvers to strategic thinkers and visionaries of systems.


Design projects at MGA&D over the last 50 years span the globe and range from office buildings to resorts and healthcare products to lifestyle accessories. The scale of projects covers the spectrum. Historically, our work has been seen in the light of aesthetics, design movements and philosophy. The thinking that underlies all of this has always aimed to transform environments to impact people and businesses. Today, as the role of design evolves, we find ourselves spending more time and effort, with our clients, researching and designing the goals of a project than ever before. Often this has deep implications on the structure and goals of our client’s organization. The ‘up-front’ strategic inquiry and planning has become key to not only the environments we design but also the organizations we impact. In this, our design methods and culture are proving to be advantageous to our clients.

The research and strategy division at MGA&D is the voice of the evolving role of design. We consist of experienced researchers and designers that bring a strategic mindset to the mix, with deep expertise in thinking broad while focusing on the relevant issues. Research, to us, is a strategic tool that informs the thinking behind our work. It helps formulate the right approach and process for each project. We recognize that a critical challenge that organizations face today is bringing alignment between investors, owners and managers.

Our workshops are designed to offer an environment of creative collaboration, facilitating impactful discussions and strategic decision making by stakeholders. Our techniques help bring together the experts in an organization and maximize cross-pollination of ideas. Like our designs, the business plans we help develop need to pass through our three design filters. It has to be aesthetic such that it appeals to the right audience. It has to be empathetic, in that it considers the needs, capabilities and wants of the people who will implement it. It has to be economically transformative, pushing the organization towards positive and sustainable change.