Designit’s Christine Pizzo on why people identify with brands that fulfill on their promise

On the DesignRush Podcast Episode 23, Christine Pizzo, Head of Design & Creative at Designit, shares her insights on helping Fortune 100 companies transform and launch custom user-led experiences that drive meaningful impact.


Join host Vianca Meyer and Christine for a discussion about how she has navigated leadership roles in the design industry, whether AI depletes the need for design jobs, and what it takes to create a good brand.

Listen here or read on below.

With the rise of generative AI, could you share insights on how it has impacted your team’s design process and client interactions?

We're keenly aware that we're entering a new phase in the evolution of design, with AI playing a central role. Interestingly, many clients approach Designit with an interest in AI, often without a clear understanding of their needs. This emerging field requires us to be proactive in learning and responsibly integrating AI into our operations.

Our approach is creative and cautious. We're currently working on a bench project, experimenting with AI in safe, controlled environments before deploying it in client projects. This allows us to explore the ethical and accuracy concerns inherent in these tools.

For example, we use tools like Grammarly for efficient editing of copy when resources are limited. Another innovative approach we've explored is using a form of ChatGPT to draft creative briefs, setting a baseline for our team to surpass. Essentially, we're leveraging AI to enhance creativity and gain quicker insights from our research.

Over the last six months, at least 20% of our clients have approached us specifically to discuss generative AI. This subset of AI, characterized by its interactive nature, is still a novel concept for many clients, who often don't realize the extent of AI's integration into their existing systems.

Our focus is on ethics and responsibility in the use of AI. We have adopted a "Do No Harm" principle to guide our approach in this dynamic field. This principle influences our training and processes, as we aim to enhance sustainability, accessibility and inclusivity while minimizing manipulation risks. Balancing expertise with a cautious approach is crucial.

Could you delve deeper into what strategies you employ to maintain a competitive edge over AI-driven solutions?

Our strategy revolves around rigorous testing and iteration, especially in projects like the bench project I mentioned earlier. Here, our teams actively engage with AI tools across various project phases, from creating personas to designing wireframes and social media campaigns.

We've instituted regular team sessions where the focus isn't just on the work produced but on the utility of the AI tools we're testing. These sessions involve demonstrations and discussions about the effectiveness and value of these tools.

The insights gathered are then shared globally within our AI council, which is responsible for setting guidelines, conducting training, and keeping abreast of industry developments. This collaborative approach to learning and sharing within the design community is crucial. It helps us adapt ideas from others, like using ChatGPT as a baseline for creative briefs, and refine our own methodologies. Our openness in sharing knowledge across the industry contributes to a collective advancement, benefiting the entire design community.

One of our major concerns is ensuring that AI doesn't overshadow the human element in design. There's a prevalent concern in the design community about AI potentially replacing human jobs and skills. So, we're proactively working to establish a clear perspective for our clients and peers on how we can integrate AI tools without losing our unique human touch and creative value. Our current focus is on validating the hypothesis that we can use AI to enhance our work while preserving our distinct value as designers.

Could you share your thoughts on how image-generation tools like OpenAI's DALL-E influence the design industry?

The rise of AI-driven tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E marks a significant shift in the design industry. We're entering the next phase of the internet, one that will transform how we access and utilize information, review data and streamline processes. This evolution presents businesses with the task of reevaluating their roles. We must consider how we fit into this new landscape, where there's a potential reduction in workforce and skill requirements.

The key for businesses, including those in the design industry, is to understand and adapt to these changes. We need to ensure that we continue to provide services that are unique and hold high value in an increasingly AI-dominated world.

Managing client relationships in design, especially when introducing them to modern design approaches and technology, can be quite complex. How do you manage clients who might not fully understand the advantages of these new trends?

It's indeed a challenging aspect of our work.

Gone are the days of working in isolation and presenting a finished concept to clients, as was depicted in shows like "Mad Men." Today, the key to success lies in deep client collaboration throughout the project.

Our approach is to involve clients at every stage, from initial workshops to final product testing. They join us in user journey mapping, participate in research and provide invaluable insights that only they, as industry experts, can offer.

This immersive partnership ensures that decisions are made collectively, incorporating the client's unique context and expertise. It's a balancing act, ensuring they are involved in the right moments and understand their role in the process.

Sometimes, it means educating them about the design process itself so they can effectively contribute and evaluate outcomes.

Effective collaboration leads to better project outcomes and fosters trust by paving the way for future projects. It's about teaching and learning together, ensuring the client is part of the journey, which ultimately results in a more satisfactory and impactful result.

Shifting the focus to the realm of design, what do you think holds the most significant influence on brand identity and consumer perception? And if given a chance, which famous logo would you choose to redesign?

Brand identity goes beyond mere aesthetics in today's world.

Consumers are increasingly aligning themselves with brands that fulfill their promises and resonate with their values. It's not just about an eye-catching logo anymore, but about a comprehensive experience that a brand offers through various touchpoints like reviews and social media presence.

I have a personal interest in the Harley Davidson logo. Its current orange and black theme doesn’t quite do justice to its rich, vintage heritage. I would love to modernize it while retaining its vintage essence.

Another example is the recent Johnson & Johnson logo redesign, which in my opinion, is a step away from its unique personality towards a more generic simplicity. This trend of simplification is a topic of much discussion in the design community, as it sometimes leads to a loss of individuality in brands.

Considering the current consumer focus on ethical practices and quality services over mere logo aesthetics, how can brands effectively communicate their ethical stance through their branding?

In today's information-rich world, consumers scrutinize brands for both their visual identity and their actions and commitments - it's about where they're showing up and what they're striving for.

It's about demonstrable actions, as consumers can quickly verify a brand's claims thanks to the wealth of information available online. They can discern whether a company's efforts are genuinely ethical or just superficial measures for publicity.

For designers, this means understanding that creating impactful designs goes beyond aesthetics.

It's about aligning design with the brand's ethical commitments and ensuring that these elements contribute positively to the business and address customer needs. Designers play a crucial role in this transition, helping brands navigate the delicate balance between maintaining revenue and committing to significant, ethical changes.

We'd like to touch upon the DesignRush Best Design Awards. Recognized as a benchmark for excellence, how do you see these awards influencing industry standards and talent, particularly for design agencies?

Awards play a crucial role in our industry.

They underscore what's impactful and effective. In the context of DesignRush, the Best Design Awards provide a platform to measure our efforts against a broader, more diverse and global industry landscape.

What makes these awards particularly valuable is their ability to showcase how design is evolving with intention. It's fascinating to see how different companies are pushing boundaries and setting new standards.

I think there's a growing need to go beyond aesthetic appreciation in these awards.

It's becoming increasingly important to highlight the tangible impact of these designs on businesses and clients. As designers, we're often more focused on the creative aspect, but understanding and demonstrating the business impact and value of our designs is key.

This shift toward including data and analytics about the efficacy of designs in the award narratives is enlightening. It's about whether a design is achieving its intended business goals. This dual focus is what will attract future clients and drive the industry forward.

We're curious about how you measure success in design. What does that entail for you and your team?

Design is often perceived in terms of aesthetics or as part of the design thinking process. However, measuring its success goes beyond these aspects.

It involves implementing analytics to assess whether the design elements or functionalities we introduced contributed to advancing key performance indicators like revenue growth or consumer trust.

For example, in a recent project for a financial company, we were able to quantify how our design enhancements led to increased user engagement and customer conversion on their platform. It's about the continuous evaluation and iteration of our designs to ensure they meet the initial goals and make strategic improvements where necessary.

Measuring design success requires tangible, quantifiable outcomes.

The most important indicators include memorability, since in today's cluttered landscape, being distinguishable is crucial. Then, there's the aspect of task completion or solving the problem at hand, which is a basic yet vital measure.

Speed and quality, although subjective, are also significant indicators.

We rely heavily on client feedback for these assessments, but we also set our own standards. It's important to balance client expectations with our principles of good design. While meeting client needs is essential, adhering to our own quality benchmarks ensures that our work remains distinguished and award-worthy, even if it doesn’t always align perfectly with client expectations.

Want to explore how to drive meaningful impact for your brand through user-led experiences? Let’s chat.