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Why lean methodology is a crucial part of creative design

Why lean methodology is a crucial part of creative design?

To remain competitive and profitable, businesses need to reduce waste whilst improving efficiency. Therein lies the core concept of lean management.


Lean methodology was first conceptualized by Henry Ford who married the idea of mass production with uniform parts – thus significantly speeding up the manufacturing process.


Refined and formalized into the Toyota Production System by Kiichiro Toyoda and members of his team – lean enabled Toyota to grow into one of the world’s largest car manufacturers to date.


So, you may ask the question – what does any of this have to do with anything? A whole lot actually.


Lean has always revolved around a culture of continuous improvement, better ways of working and adding value. All of which are useful for an agency or freelancer looking to get ahead of their competitors.


With that in mind, let’s take a look at why lean is a vital part of the creative design process.


  1. Create value for your customers 


Value refers to the benefit that your product or service brings to a customer. Whether you’re designing a website or creating content, success hinges on your ability to bring value.


To do so, it is crucial that you first understand the needs of your customer. This can be done by engaging with them to develop solutions for their problems.


Take this article for example – by educating you; the reader on the benefits of lean practices, you’ll derive value from the knowledge that will allow you to be a more effective designer, writer or business owner.


When working with a customer, focus on how you can create value for them. This can range from shorter response times to developing a product that fulfills all of their requirements.


  1. Continually improve 


A key aspect of lean methodology is continuous improvement. Toyota employees were actively encouraged to generate new ideas on better ways of working.


This could range from eliminating entire processes to tackling a problem from a different angle. As a result, Toyota employees are renowned for their innovation and relentless pursuit of perfection.


David Ogily; possibly the greatest advertiser of all time, had this to say about copywriting – “I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.”


The pursuit of perfection is an endless one – continuous improvement inspires innovation and drives creativity via the need to constantly develop new ideas.


  1. Reduce waste


Waste can come in a variety of forms, be it time, energy or materiel.


Lean management focuses on studying the various processes and identifying areas of waste. For creative agencies, the most common forms of waste are:


  • Overproduction: Doing more work than is necessary
  • Waiting: Idle time waiting for tasks to be assigned, contingent tasks to be completed, or needed information.
  • Unnecessary processing: Non-essential features or functions
  • Unnecessary motion: Physical motion or mental motion – unneeded time spent looking for information, tools, or necessary resources.
  • Defects: work that does not meet the client’s requirements and needs to be reworked.


Besides adding stress, time and money that could have been spent on more value-added tasks, like betting on NFL games in BetAmerica, is wasted. Instead, emphasize the need to produce quality work within the allocated time frame.


Apply this to the creative by eliminating distractions and keeping the focus on the ultimate goal. This reduces time spent discussing and allows for more time to be spent on completing projects.


  1. Collaborative problem-solving


Andon refers to a system used in manufacturing that alerts management and staff members of a quality or process issue. From here, corrective action can be taken to rectify the issue and prevent it from recurring.


Toyota utilized this system to ensure that problems were solved collectively as a team. This ensured better quality products and encouraged employees to point out defects or faults.


In a creative environment, leveraging on the power of a team as a whole allows for an improved problem-solving process and improved products and services.


For example, obtaining feedback from team members with regards to a client’s web interface can drastically improve the user experience. When observed from a different perspective, previously hidden issues can be revealed.

While the field of manufacturing may have little in common with that of design, the concepts of lean are still applicable here.