Mark Curtis

Our new report is out: Design from Within

Never has a focus on people been more influential in a business’s success. Everything we do and make must put people first to become a beloved and needed part of their lives – whether those people are customers, users or colleagues.

To remain competitive in this reality, it’s become plain that organizations need a strong design capability that places people at the heart. But what if a business has little or no heritage in design? Savvy leaders are building design in-house, so that they can more effectively tackle digital transformation challenges and infuse design thinking throughout their organizations. Drawing on our experience, we’ve honed three main approaches to helping clients develop their design potential, which we detail in new report released today, “Design from Within: How to build internal resource to design and innovate.”

  1. Setting up shop

This is when we work alongside the client to set up a design studio or innovation hub – powered by their own people, processes and technology. Here’s how we helped Commerzbank establish their in-house design agency Neugelb.

  1. Design bootcamp

This is when we run a brief, intense and immersive engagement, working together with the client through a design process.

  1. Taking Fjord within

This is when we set up a Fjord-led design studio within a client’s organization, taking full responsibility for all the client’s design and digital requirements.

Each of these three approaches has its own distinctive benefits and challenges, but all operate with a shared set of “golden rules,” which we consider fundamental in positioning the client to develop design skills for sustainable success. So what are they?

The Golden Rules


If you’re going to drive the success of the studio, hub or bootcamp, and battle through the barriers that larger organizations frequently present, you must appoint a strong, stand-up leader. This person will be able to represent the design collective and fight for what they need to be able to produce their best, most valuable work.


Creativity is a fickle beast, and it’s rarely – if ever – stimulated by following rules. Liberate the studio, hub or bootcamp from any restrictive bureaucracy handed down by the parent organization. This starts with creating a psychologically and physically “safe” space that enables designers to think and work differently.


The key to creating differentiated and delightful solutions lies in assembling a diverse team of people with a mix of personalities, skills and backgrounds. The bigger and more varied the pool of skills, the more likely you are to find the most imaginative, effective solution. Forming such a team will come with challenges in the early days but give them time to gel, and space to work through any issues and it’ll pay off.


If you’re setting up a studio or hub, create a distinct brand for it. The branding becomes a powerful visual reminder that this is a new and forward-thinking initiative – a separate unit, operating differently from the rest of the organization. When colleagues interacting with the hub start to see brilliant new work emerging under the brand, they become inspired to think differently themselves, and the move toward a widely held culture of design and innovation is accelerated.


Follow a Service Design approach to ensure you involve the user throughout your design work – whether it’s in a studio, hub, part of the bootcamp or afterwards. With constant input from end-users, you’ll end up with something they love and come to rely upon. The result is long-lasting customer relationships that ultimately benefit the business.


Define a clear vision of what you’re setting out to achieve, to provide something for the designers to work toward together. It might be represented by a visual that strikes a chord with the team, or it might be an adventurous, borderline unattainable goal. Whatever it is, it must effectively demonstrate a direction, and inspire people to work towards it together.


Concentrate on breaking down silos. Each of the three approaches involves setting up a stand-alone unit, so you’re immediately at risk of contributing to the siloed nature of many established firms. The team must actively engage with business units from across the organization, weaving their work throughout and removing barriers as they go.

To understand what this could mean for your organization, and for insight into our experiences with other clients, read Fjord’s report about “Design from Within” here.

Mark Curtis

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