Recently, I got a new credit card, but I got much more than just a card. I got a new solid piece of Danish design, which has already proven really useful. The card has the same format as all the other cards in my wallet. But it marks a small revolution, which was brought about by the Danish start-up Pleo.
Pleo saw and identified a problem that I and many others experience: receipts from business lunches or train tickets that are never turned in for reimbursement, because they are lost or hide out, creased and crumpled, at the bottom of one’s bag. That is not only embarrassing, it can be costly, and it means extra work for our colleagues in accounting. To address that issue Pleo has developed an app that eliminates the need for printed receipts. Whenever you use the card you receive a notification to snap a photo of the receipt using your smartphone. The payment information and the photo are immediately forwarded to accounting, and you can go about your business without the hassle of having to save the receipt, fill out the expense form on your computer and so forth.
As is so often the case when we encounter new, good designs, one’s first thought is, ‘why didn’t someone think of this sooner?’
Pleo brings value to its customers by means of good design on three levels:
First the physical design: Pleo resembles an ordinary payment card, but it comes in a great-looking package with a beautiful logo that is just as appealing as Apple’s packaging. Next, Pleo is a very accessible, well-designed app that is easy to use, intuitive and ready on your smartphone. And finally, Pleo involves the design of a system that enables the automatic transfer of data from the card user to the accountant.
Pleo is product, service and system in one. And that’s what makes it such a smart solution.
"The really good – and slightly less well-known – news is that the smart use of design pays off. We have new evidence to back that up."
Back to the bold claim I made in the headline, that your company relies on design. Of course, that’s intended to catch your attention and encourage you to read the article, but I actually stand by my claim. I am speaking of design as it appears in Pleo: a design-driven mindset that permeates the entire business.
In Denmark, we often associate good design with tangible products – furniture, applied art and consumer products – and indeed, Danish furniture designers continue to do very well. One example is the successful growth company Muuto, which recently sold for no less than DKK 1.9 billion. However, I would argue that good design is, if anything, even more crucial in the digital world where most companies are competing today. The more digital a company is, the more it relies on design.
The really good – and slightly less well-known – news is that the smart use of design pays off. We have new evidence to back that up.
In collaboration with the Confederation of Danish Industry, the Danish Design Centre asked some 800 Danish companies how they would rate their use of design. Close to 75 per cent of the respondents replied that the use of design in their company has a positive impact on their bottom line. That is good news indeed! Putting a value on design requires a thorough approach, as the positive impact of design goes well beyond the bottom line. Design contributes to many different kinds of value, from the corporate brand to CSR values, sustainability goals, resource efficiency and many other aspects.
Although many Danish companies are familiar with design and are well aware of its value-generating role, the untapped potential still remains huge. Perhaps Pleo is going to match Muuto’s success by attracting major investments? Or perhaps your company is going to be the next to make its living from and with design?