What is Business Design?

Learn about the modern approach to business building.

Business strategy and design thinking are converging into a new approach for solving business challenges known as business design. This makes sense given that design-driven companies continue to outperform their peers and also explains why so many management consultancies are rapidly acquiring design agencies. A decade ago, business design was an emerging role in design agencies. Today, however, it’s an established role in consulting and moving in-house as well.  

How do We Define Business Design?  

Business design brings a design mindset and methodology to solve business challenges and deliver viable business models. At Prophet, business design is a method for developing products, services and ventures for our clients that are differentiated in the market and able to capture value for their businesses.  

Why is Business Design the Modern Approach to Business Building? 

There is some magic that happens when you bring the design process of divergence and convergence to bear on business challenges. It gets business leaders out of the mindset of competing over existing market share and reorients them to think about what new value could be created based on the emerging needs, motivations and behaviors of all humans involved in the value creation equation – customers, users, employees and communities. 

At Prophet, when we embark on a business design project, there are some key things we set out to do:  

  • Achieve a deep understanding of business challenges faced 
  • Bring a design mindset and use design methods to solve them, including creating new methods 
  • Develop iterative plans and models based on real-world scenarios to understand what will be most viable in the market 

The goal of business design is to ensure that neither of these scenarios happens: 

  • The business minds determine all the requirements for a new offering and bring designers in to beautify the interface 
  • The design team creates the end-to-end user experience of a new offering and brings the business people in to give it a price tag 

The defining characteristic of the business design function is to constantly balance the needs of users with the needs of the business, in the near and long term. A business designer will always ensure that business logic informs any design-build or seek out to better understand the logic that supports their design – whether that be loyalty leading to higher customer lifetime value, efficiency leading to higher transaction volume or something else entirely. On the other hand, a business designer will see through a short-term value capture scheme if it has the potential to hurt the long-term viability of the business. So, it is about balance on two fronts: managing desirability and viability and managing the time horizons. 

Three Examples of Business Design Frameworks 

Here are some business design frameworks that show what it looks like to solve business challenges with design methodology: 

Human-Centered Opportunity Sizing = Total Addressable Problem 

The Total Addressable Market (TAM) approach to opportunity sizing assumes that companies are constrained by the industry in which they operate today and that to outgrow the market, they must take share from incumbents. In contrast, the business design approach to opportunity sizing is based on the Total Addressable Problem (TAP), which a business is trying to solve for users. Rather than starting with an existing industry, such as the hotel industry, it starts with a user need, like the ability to feel at home anywhere in the world. Framing the opportunity based on what you are helping users achieve creates new possibilities and use cases.  

Take Airbnb for instance. Airbnb’s growth far exceeded the budget travel market that it originally entered. Now, Airbnb competes with luxury hotels, short-term rentals and travel services outside of lodging. Uber is another great example. It started from the other end of the spectrum as a high-end car service but through a TAP framework, it far outgrew the taxi industry and instead became a micro-mobility platform with food delivery, bike rentals and healthcare transportation. Lastly, Amazon started in e-commerce, but through a TAP framework, grew to provide convenience in all aspects of household management, including building a smart home ecosystem.  

Human-Centered Commercialization = Incentive Design 

Business design creates outsized value by aligning emerging behavioral and business models and then makes value exchanges that are sustainable and durable in the long run. Before folding in 2013, late fees accounted for 16% of Blockbuster’s revenue. If the way a business captures value is in direct opposition to its users’ best interest, that is not a sustainable business model.  

Netflix’s subscription model, however, aligns user and business interests. The more you watch, the more data Netflix gets on what you like to watch, the better they can recommend additional content. Subscriptions lock in recurring revenue, enabling Netflix to make bigger bets in developing new content. And it is not just about value for customers. Netflix invests heavily in creators with new stories to tell and targets those stories to the right audiences. One of the most important activities in business design is creating growth feedback loops in which new demand drives new supply while increasing value for all stakeholders. 

Human-Centered Planning = Test and Learn 

Business design preferences emergent and iterative models over linear and deterministic planning. You can learn more about the viability of a new business in one meeting with users than in a week of modeling future cash flows based on historic assumptions. A business designer is comfortable with the knowledge that an assumption being off could mean a 10x change in revenue projections. They will not boil the ocean perfecting those assumptions, instead, they will put something into the market and see what happens. Of course, businesses need cash flow today to explore new problems to solve for their users tomorrow. A business designer will think about what can be EBIT-accretive today, while also investing in experiments to rapidly test and learn what new business models might be most relevant in the future. 

Check out our most recent research – Building Business Resilience Through Innovation


Despite its gaining popularity, business design remains a widely misunderstood discipline, yet it is the most important future skill. At its core, it requires a human-centered approach that is simultaneously focused on the needs of customers, stakeholders and key business imperatives.  

At Prophet, our business design team comes from the design world and the business world. We self-selected into business design because we saw that there was no longer a product-solution fit between traditional business strategy tools and the types of challenges we are tasked with solving for clients today. A business design approach is fit-for-purpose to future-proofing businesses as the needs, behaviors and expectations of humans and what is enabled by technology changes at an unprecedented rate. 

Start employing business design to solve key business challenges. Get in touch today.  


The Importance of a Collaborative Product Design Process

Design may be a team sport, but most companies need guidelines to make collaboration more effective.

Fostering cross-department and client collaboration in projects are critical through the design process to keep teams motivated, clients engaged and to ensure the forward momentum of the project. Such an approach also reduces friction and contributes to the well-being of the team.

At Prophet, our one-team approach is encouraged in all engagements with start-ups through to big corporations. The conclusion we’ve been able to draw is that the design and innovation process gains real momentum and buy-in with the involvement of cross-functional collaboration. But every organization is different and creating that space to empower teams is a frequently faced challenge, along with accessing stakeholders for decision-making and bringing the wider team along on the journey.

“The design and innovation process gains real momentum and buy-in with the involvement of cross-functional collaboration.”

Read on as we break down what collaborative design is, the benefits and offer our tips to encourage collaboration and foster creativity.

What is Collaborative Design?

Collaborative design is the process of designing as a team. Great products and experiences aren’t created in a vacuum. A diversity of profiles is needed, from designers, analysts, researchers, and product managers, fusing their talents and expertise leads to the creation of something truly meaningful and something that genuinely connects business and user needs.

The Benefits of Product Design Collaboration

There are many reasons why great products need great collaboration, here’s some of them:

  • Shared goal or vision – all team members are kept well informed and on the same page throughout the process.
  • Creative and innovative solutions – gathering feedback and considering diverse perspectives from a variety of specialized skillsets enable next-level solutions.
  • It gives everyone a voice – collaboration is good for culture too. It helps to instill democracy within your creative process and signals that all voices matter.
  • Greater buy-in – if you create a process where everybody has greater agency in contributing input, it makes it harder for team members to disengage.
  • Saves time – continuous and open communication prevents misunderstandings and costly revisions so that the product can be brought to the development stage sooner.

A 6-Step Guide to Organize and Improve the Collaborative Design Process

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Our Top Tips to Get Started

1. Cross-Function Teaming

The team is everything, and the more disciplines involved, the more robust the ideation, feedback and iteration. Even better, create a cross-level team, a good idea can come from anywhere.

2. Problem First

Focus on the problem first and be flexible on how you get to the solution. Align with the team on the outcomes that you are trying to drive and let the team be flexible with the process.

3. A Flat Planet

Design is a team sport, and with that, the team should be empowered to move, design and dictate the course of the project. A hierarchical approach will slow sign-offs, meeting availabilities and permission to move forward. Empower the team, do great work.

4. Rhythm is Everything

Working together at a similar pace is key. Set a cadence that works for the project and the team’s wellbeing. Consider the teams’ lifestyles as they are as – if not more – important as the project plan itself.

5. Team Health

Carve out the space and time to run team retrospectives and have open conversations about team health.  At Prophet, our teams use a framework called SCARFS – standing for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness and Sustainability – to help guide those conversations. Every week, each team member rates how they feel on each factor on a scale between one and five. This is critical to understand the health of the project and the team. Often this moment of reflection will provide a deeper insight to refine the process for upcoming sprints.

6. A Vision of the Future

Have a brave vision of the future, challenge the team to look beyond the project and deeply question the future state and impact that the work will have.


Collaborative design should be standard practice through the product creation process with a focus on solving a true user need. Done right, design collaboration empowers everyone involved with the mindset and process to come together and build a better product – even the best specialist can’t design great products alone, that’s why collaboration is so fundamental.

If you need help on how to adopt or improve your design collaboration workflow or approach to product design, get in touch with our Innovation & Experience experts today.


Building Brands That Win in the Market

Even the smartest strategies need the right creative approach to make impact.

Prophet is a place where creative passion and commitment merge with strategic smarts and intellect. Our clients – across industries – are true partners in our joint pursuits to differentiate brands and reach and attract customers in innovative ways. Digital, strategy, design, verbal, insights, analytics all work together to develop brands that win in the market.

Learn More About the Work Featured in Prophet’s Design Reel

Poly: Creating a Marketing Campaign to Celebrate a Historic Day

Prophet created the 50th-anniversary marketing campaign to celebrate Poly and Plantronics’ role in the 1969 Moon Landing. The team ultimately won two Transform Awards for its out-of-this-world work. Read more.

L’Escape: Creating a Parisian Escape in the Heart of Seoul

Prophet reimagined Shinsegae Chosun Hotel Group’s brand strategy to successfully revamp its luxury hotel, L’Escape. Praised for its creative differentiation and sophisticated attention to detail, Prophet’s design work earned two gold Transform Awards. Later on, L’Escape was awarded an iF design award for its website design – based on Prophet’s brand concepts and designs. Read more.

Keurig Green Mountain: Energizing an Iconic Brand Portfolio

Keurig Green Mountain needed a partner to successfully merge its newly merged businesses and accelerate growth. Prophet supported its large-scale transformation – setting the strategic foundation for its marketing organization and clarifying its brand architecture. Read more.

Fora: From Co-Working to Pro-Working

Prophet helped Brockton Capital fill a unique gap in the market for a new type of co-working space – developing a unique and elevated brand experience for sophisticated professionals. FORA became the fastest-growing player in the co-working space, expanding its locations in London and beyond. Read more.

The Wharton Center at MSU: Defining Brand Purpose for a Performing Arts Center

Prophet revitalized Michigan State University’s performing arts center by developing a brand purpose that resonated with the community. The new brand expresses the boldness, courage and diversity of the 300,000 young people that use the space each year. This work received a gold award for key art and a bronze award for print collateral at the 2019 International Design Awards. Read more.

“Our clients – across industries – are true partners in our joint pursuits to differentiate brands and reach and attract customers in innovative ways.”

Nam Nghi: Defining the Brand Story & Experience for a Vietnamese Luxury Resort

Prophet developed a compelling visual identity and signature customer experience that differentiated the brand, attracted new customers and sparked interest across the luxury tourism industry. Read more.

USWNT OOSA: Creating a Brand that Pushes for Progress On and Off the Field

Prophet partnered with U.S. Women’s National Team players to create a brand and digital experience that captured the essence of the team—both as world-class athletes and as passionate activists. The pro-bono work won two Transform Awards for creative development and audio branding. Read more.

Formula-E: Reframing a Racing Championship for an Electrifying Future

Formula E was having a hard time finding its place in the racing world and beyond, so they partnered with Prophet to reframe the series, create a relevant position, and craft a visual identity. This work was recognized with two Transform Europe awards, two Transform APAC awards and was acknowledged within the Creative Review Annual as one of the best brand identities. Read more.

Colmo: Designing a Simply Extraordinary Brand of Smart Home Appliances

We developed a brand positioning, verbal identity and visual identity for a new premium home appliance brand COLMO. The big idea captured the philosophy of highly crafted products that are effortlessly simple in delivering an extraordinary user experience. Read more.

Regal: Evolving an Entertainment Icon

We revamped Regal Cinema’s brand identity and digital experience to reflect a modern, ever-evolving theater experience. Our teams also helped strategically think through how the new brand could be activated across touchpoints from the theater façade to concessions and the digital experience. Read more.

Do you need a strategy and design partner to push your brand forward into its next evolution? Reach out today.


How Prophet Creates Winning Hospitality Brands that Stand Out

From perfect Cantonese Char Siu to magical island escapes, we help brands showcase authentic treasures.

Prophet took home seven Transform APAC Awards that recognized our work in brand strategy, design and innovation across a range of industries. It’s always exciting when our work is recognized. It is a testament to our commitment to helping our clients unlock uncommon growth.

In addition to the success stories with China’s leading companies, our award-winning work showcases some of our most exciting projects with leading hospitality brands. Spanning various markets, our clients face fierce competition in the landscape of diverse and ever-changing consumer needs. Engagement Managers Isadora Jones and Cyrill Blaser share their experiences and thoughts on how to create winning strategies for our hospitality clients.

Man Ho: Uncovering A Unique Story that Prevails

Isadora Jones, Engagement Manager

A prominent facet of Asian culture is undoubtedly the food scene. From street food to fancy Michelin restaurants, one can enjoy exquisite local and western food anywhere, at all price points. As the signature Cantonese restaurant in JW Marriott and Marriott hotels, Man Ho is one of those places. Its challenge was apparent – how to differentiate itself as an authentic Cantonese restaurant in order to attract guests and local consumers in Asia? Marriott came to us to create a distinctive brand identity to elevate the Man Ho experience while staying true to its heritage.

What makes Man Ho unique? To understand this, we started by talking to Chef Leo. What resonated with us deeply was Man Ho’s iterative approach and craftsmanship dedicated to each dish. Chef Leo spent years experimenting with every detail to create the absolute best dish (the Char Siu recipe took over 8 years to perfect!), with a great deal of care being placed on finding the best ingredients for each recipe, while remaining true to the original authentic recipes. This inspired us to land on the brand positioning of ‘A Journey Through Time’, inviting diners to experience Cantonese dishes that have been cultivated and refined from one generation to another.

We then developed a beautiful visual system to bring this positioning to life. Our designers created a bird and key logo representing the ancient carrier bird to symbolize the journey that the recipes have been on, highlighting how Man Ho unlocks the secret ingredients that have elevated Cantonese cuisine. We used hand-drawn illustrations to communicate a sense of craftsmanship. We also art-directed a photoshoot in the hotel with their actual chefs to create impactful imagery of authenticity and expertise. The use of contemporary color combinations is what makes the visual identity so special, juxtaposing traditional symbols with black & white photography to create a lively and refreshed look.

The new brand identity has already been rolled out at the Man Ho restaurant in Shenzhen and will continue to be rolled out across Asia in 2020.

Nam Nghi: Telling an Authentic Story that Resonates

Cyrill Blaser, Engagement Manager

Branding a hotel is always exciting. Every property has a unique story to tell and at Prophet we are oftentimes lucky enough to be the people who get to uncover and polish these stories. Nam Nghi, a boutique resort in the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, had been operating for just over a year when the opportunity of joining Hyatt’s Unbound Collection came up. Having realized that the inconsistent experience across different touchpoints made it challenging for them to compete, Nam Nghi came to us to find their brand story.

We started by identifying what was unique, as we were drawn in by Nam Nghi and the Phu Quoc island. A hidden paradise of lush jungles, turquoise water, white beaches and true hospitality – Phu Quoc Island has become one of Asia’s most talked-about destinations and an international hub for luxury and eco-friendly tourism. We were inspired by a strong sense of preservation of the unspoiled Phu Quoc island as well as the coral reefs around it.

“A hidden paradise of lush jungles, turquoise water, white beaches and true hospitality – Phu Quoc Island has become one of Asia’s most talked-about destinations”

Prophet’s extensive experience in developing luxury hotel brands in Asia has led to an understanding of key trends that are shaping the global travel and hospitality category: hyper-local, eco-consciousness and bespoke experiences. As a result, we positioned the property as a destination for affluent nature-conscious guests who crave for authentic experiences with minimal environmental impact. Centered around this positioning, we then designed an immersive identity that conveys the idea of immersion in nature through the use of patterns and hand-drawn illustrations.

When approaching a brand-building project, hotel or otherwise, it’s important to be attentive and stay true to the anchoring attributes of the brand, in order to tell a truly compelling story that resonates with your audiences. As the Nam Nghi team is rolling out the work across more and more touchpoints, it’s going to be exciting to see the brand and its story truly come to life. So I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Phu Quoc.


Our work with Man Ho and Nam Nghi stood out because they stayed true to the our branding principles. At Prophet, we believe a compelling brand story needs to deliver on three factors: 1) built on a single idea; 2) based on what makes the brand unique; 3) delivered consistently across the full experience. Combining our strategic thinking with our creative minds, we helped the clients to differentiate and grow better.

When brands are faced with increasingly sophisticated consumers and intensified competition, they are compelled to do more. However, it’s important for brand owners to keep in mind these key principles in order to build a coherent and prevailing brand positioning, and therefore deliver the biggest impact when implementing activations and creating experiences.


Clive Rohald: Inside the Living Brand Experience

That means focusing on agile and dynamic design systems, and modern representations of brands.

2 min


Clive Rohald, Executive Director and Partner at Prophet, shares what we mean by the term ‘living brand’ and why creative teams today need to move towards more agile, responsive systems. When it comes to design, it isn’t just about a specific color palette, or how the logo looks – it’s more about the interaction and how a brand fulfills a need or gap in your life.

Becoming a living brand is no longer an opportunity, but an obligation in order for brands to stay relevant to consumers. That being said, this strategic shift must not only be made but also maintained in order to remain a relevant brand year after year.

Learn more about how you can start to make this shift in your brand strategy.


UBS Digital Portrait Gallery

See the continuous animated drawings we made for UBS, capturing its entire history in a single-line.

10 min


Try telling the 156-year story of the world’s largest wealth management firm in a simple yet engaging way, it sure isn’t easy. Prophet built this dynamic and digital portrait gallery for UBS, which now takes centre stage at its newly renovated HQ in Zurich.

A continuous single-line of animated drawings, it captures their pioneering leadership, progression and iconic moments in an elegant and arresting way.

Learn about our other work with UBS:

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