How Global Brands and Agencies are Shaping the Future of Experience Design

Illustration: Justin Cheong.

Creating compelling customer experiences today is all about collaboration.

With rising customer expectations, a rapidly changing business environment and an evolving technology ecosystem, companies must discover how to bring design and business teams together to accelerate ideas and quickly scale them into rich experiences.

Brands like Dropbox, Microsoft, and SAP have discovered how. We spoke to design leaders at these organizations, as well as Deloitte Digital and AT&T, to learn how they are facing today’s challenges and using innovative approaches to make UX design scalable within their organizations. Their example might just signal where experience design is headed in the coming years.

Hear their words of wisdom in the video below, and read on as they share their best advice on scaling strong UX.

Take a customer-first approach

Companies can no longer deal with customers in a transactional way, and that means they must rethink their customer experience.

“We have to design for the whole customer journey. It’s no longer about putting a product out there, and thinking that’s enough. It’s about continuous design and development,” says Albert Shum, CVP of Microsoft’s Design, Experiences & Devices group.

Microsoft and other enterprise technology providers know that the line between consumer and enterprise is now blended. Technology needs to address our modern lives, whether we’re at home or at work.

Take software giant SAP. The company is known for its product performance and functionality. Based on customer feedback, SAP now focuses more on user interface design, using Adobe XD to design new user interfaces. The User Assistance group, which creates content to help customers successfully implement and run SAP software, has been inspired by using XD.

“We see that a tool like Adobe XD works brilliantly, has a very short onboarding period, and helps us think about our own user experiences differently,” says Axel Luther, chief user assistance development architect at SAP.

Embrace the need for speed

Gone are the days of 12-month release cycles. Progress now happens in weeks or even days.

Design leaders say rapid iteration—the ability to prototype, test, and learn from failures quickly—is paramount in today’s competitive business environment. This approach helps designers rapidly innovate and mitigates the risk of a single idea failing.

“We need to accelerate what we do because competition is fierce,” says Andy Sandoz, chief creative officer at Deloitte Digital UK, whose team helps companies with their digital transformation. **“**We don’t want to invest everything into one idea and find it doesn’t work, so we need to work iteratively.”

At Dropbox, teams moved quickly from research to viable designs during a rebrand. The approach ultimately led to better products.

“We’re constantly optimizing user flows,” says Collin Whitehead, head of brand studio at Dropbox. “The more we test and iterate, the better the design.”

Dropbox has also partnered with Adobe to integrate Adobe XD prototypes into Dropbox Paper, a collaborative workspace that lets teams pull in files from anywhere. In the future, Whitehead expects the integration to improve collaboration and workflows for design teams that use Adobe XD to build rapid prototypes.

Design systems are also critical to increase creative efficiency.

“At AT&T, our design system makes us faster and more efficient while reducing costs,” says David Kendall, principal of UX design, digital design and user experience at AT&T. “We’re not repeating work, and we can rapidly respond to changes.”

Foster more collaboration

Collaboration is key to effective execution. Teams must communicate and co-create, even if they don’t sit in the same room. The design leaders we interviewed say shared tools and processes reinforce a collaborative culture.

That’s particularly true for large brands that need to maintain consistency across geographically dispersed teams. According to Juan Julio Rojas, design director at Accenture Costa Rica, the company identifies ambassadors in its creative centers around the world to ensure designers consistently follow brand design. Adobe tools keep designers aligned, even when they rarely meet in person.

“That’s where technology can be our ally, allowing us to establish common capabilities and shared skills that empower people no matter where they are or what they’re doing,” Rojas says.

At Microsoft, Shum’s team is fostering deeper collaboration between designers and developers with Adobe XD. Microsoft’s example illustrates just how critical design systems are for brands that want to innovate their customer experience.

“With tools like Adobe XD, we can actually prototype experiences and not just hand off a file,” he says. “We create tighter collaboration and iterate together. It’s going to unlock new possibilities in the way we work.”