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Harnessing the Power of Design to Build a Smarter, Greener Business

09. Dec 2022

A new survey conducted by The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) and DDC – Danish Design Center, Design Delivers Green, shows that Danish companies increasingly recognize the value of design in creating economic value and innovation

Long reads

When the Danish green energy giant Ørsted needed to automate its energy trading – a task that requires an enormous amount of information from weather forecasts, stock market prices, and global electricity consumption – the company did not turn to statisticians or IT experts. They brought in a team that, over the past three years, has become part of Ørsted’s DNA across all departments and corporate hierarchies: the designers. Led by engineer and designer Michael McKay, design is today embedded in nearly every product and strategic business decision that Ørsted makes.

"Designers and design thinking have become cornerstones in Ørsted's corporate culture. It's actually difficult to imagine an organization without either of these."

Michael McKay

Head of Design Center of Excellence, Ørsted

Ørsted may be one of the largest, but it’s far from the only company that uses design strategically to ensure financial growth and innovation and to solve complex challenges like the green transition. And the results are remarkedly clear:

In a new survey from DDC – Danish Design Center and the Confederation of Danish Industry, 90 percent of Danish companies that use design systematically say it has had a positive impact on the bottom line – and 54 percent say that the effect has increased over the past five years. Five years that included historical global events such as the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

“Working strategically with design gives Danish companies a clear competitive advantage that leads to higher customer satisfaction and a more enduring brand. And when we view the transition through a broader societal lens, we see that design will be able to accelerate the green transition within Denmark, but also in the rest of the world."

Christian Bason


Michael McKay has no doubt that design has played a crucial role in Ørsted’s growth in the past few years. “In an increasingly digitized, complex, and unpredictable future, design becomes one of the most important parameters. It is crucial to bring creative and generative elements to the table,” Michael says, adding that this is only the beginning of a much more extensive design journey for Ørsted.

The competitive edge

When asked how design specifically benefits the company, most companies point out that design strengthens their brand, improves competitiveness, and increases customer satisfaction.

At the Danish packaging company Plus Pack, design plays a vital role in the development of new products. The company sees every day how design adds value to its innovation and business development, says deputy CEO and co-owner Camilla Haustrup Hermansen – and she got the customer satisfaction rates to back it up.

"Design is a key driver for the green transition and Danish businesses' competitiveness, growth, and development. Good design not only benefits the economy and consumers, but is also good for the planet."

Camilla Haustrup Hermansen

Deputy CEO & Co-Owner, Plus Pack

A keystone of corporate culture

A keystone of corporate culture

As Camilla Hermansen points out, design is primarily a driver of Plus Pack’s mission to create reusable and recyclable products that support the circular economy while reducing CO2 emissions.

Camilla explains that the design approach has made it easier for the company to gain a holistic view of the systems into which the product enters. The product’s circularity is also determined in the design phase through the choice of material, color, and shape: “This is where the product’s life cycle is determined,” she says.

In the survey, 85 percent of Danish companies say they have initiated the transition to a circular economy. But less than half say they have the skills to see it through. 

Lise Thomsen, head of creative industries at the Confederation of Danish Industry, agrees that design’s systemic approach – like the one Plus Pack has implemented – is key to the green transition.”Design competencies must not and cannot be underestimated in the transition process we are going through these years. The ability to include and interact with the entire value chain, from the invention of the materials used to the production processes, packaging, and related logistics. It’s important to see the whole picture and avoid sub-optimization – that’s what design is all about,” Lise explains.

A keystone of corporate culture

Back at Ørsted’s energy trading desks, Michael and his co-designers developed a solution to the automation challenge by putting eye-tracking glasses on the operator and recording a typical day in the machine room. Using the recordings, Ørsted was suddenly able to track the operator’s workflow and provide the entire company with important information and guidelines for automating some of the energy trading processes. For Michael McKay, this is an excellent example of how designers now play an indispensable role throughout the company, from new products and services to implementing strategy across the business units and as an integral part of the management team. Similarly, the dissemination of design in Danish companies has also increased over the years, and design is no longer just assigned to the product development team or in the corner offices of management.

At Ørsted, designers are now moving from an advisory to a mentoring role. In Michael’s opinion, this reflects how design permeates the corporate culture and proves that there is no patent on ‘design’ per se.

Today, design is one of the absolute cornerstones in Ørsted’s corporate culture. It’s even a part of the company culture where many of Michael’s colleagues – who do not have a design background – actually understand design thinking and working methods.

Download the key numbers here

Anne Ravnholt Juelsen

Journalist & Communications Strategist

Phone +45 5150 0983
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