Your Company Needs a CCO

Your Company Needs a CCO


By Misty Cripps

Sitting at the leadership roundtable, there are people concerned with every aspect of the business except for one. That one is the end user. Not necessarily just the people who buy the product, but the people who use the product, engage with the company and become advocates for what’s being sold. Why does this matter? Intimate knowledge of the wants, needs, desires and motivations of these people should help guide business decisions. They are the greatest asset in determining what and how to sell, market and engage.

There has been a lot of talk for some time about user experience design and design thinking, what it is and what its role is in an organization. Products and services must have a good user experience. This mindset belongs not just in the design department, but across all channels of the organization.

This is why you need a Chief Creative Officer.

What Is a User Experience?

User experience is not creating beautiful visual designs, nor is it about designing the best way for a user to create an email in a redesign of a messaging application. User experience is concerned with user’s emotions, their attitudes and behaviors about a product or service. It’s concerned with a user’s mental model of how a product or service should work without needing instructions on how to use it. It’s how using a product makes a customer feel. It’s about how to best engage the customer so that they form an emotional connection to the product or service, brand and company. This happens not only when a customer uses a product or service. This engagement and delight should happen in the upstream, in-stream, and downstream experiences.

User-centered design is a process in which designers design a product or service with the user’s wants, needs and desires first and foremost at every stage of the design process, from creating initial concepts to working with Quality Assurance and Marketing to ship a product or service. How do designers do this? By getting to know the end users. They conduct extensive interviews with current and prospective users and use marketing demographics to create personas, which are amalgams of different users helping guide the design. Designers consider these personas and their wants, needs and desires in order to guide decisions about what makes a good design.

Design Thinking should permeate the organization – from sales to the CEO. Design thinking is not about trying to solve for a specific problem. It’s not about trying to devise the ‘perfect’ solution. Design Thinking is divergent thinking used to devise a number of resolutions to a problem by drawing from a variety of sources and synthesizing it into design solutions.

So now that we know what user-centered design, user experience, and design thinking are, what exactly does a Chief Creative Officer bring to the table? He or she brings many things, primarily by being the voice of the user, being an advocate for design thinking, knowing the customer journey, encouraging big picture thinking and being the keeper of the ecosystem.

A Voice of the User

While the CEO is thinking about appeasing the Board of Directors, the CTO is thinking about next generation tech, and the CMO is thinking about how to position the product or service in the market, who is thinking about the end user? The answer is the Chief Creative Officer. Every initiative, whether internal or external, should have users’ goals, wants, needs and desires front and center. Why does this matter? When you consider the user first, before jumping in and creating a solution, they become your best resource for where your company should be headed. Keeping their needs in mind means you’re more likely to create something engaging and compelling rather than a product or service looking for a market.

An Advocate of Design Thinking

Design thinking isn’t just for designers. As noted, it’s a methodology that helps the organization reach its penultimate goal or future state. Designers are exceptionally good at this because a lot of good design is reached through divergent thinking and synthesis of what is known about users, habits, markets and emerging trends. It’s also an iterative way of thinking. The best answers come through thinking, re-imagining and re-imagining again what a product, service or organizational process should be.

Knowing the Customer Journey

Designers often produce Customer Journey Maps. These are narratives of a customer’s experience with an organization and its products and services throughout all of the customer’s touch points, from research about a product to advertising, sales, use, customer service and, hopefully, long-term engagement with the organization. This map is used, in essence, to reveal to leadership who their customers are and what their touch points are along their journey. Having a Chief Creative Officer who knows the customer journey can inform others at the C-level of what a customer’s greatest motivations are – the goal being to create products and services that meet those.

Thinking About the Big Picture

Everyone in the organization should be thinking about the big picture and how to move the organization forward. Designers are exceptionally good at thinking not just about the next generation or the next fiscal year, but at thinking ahead by leaps and bounds. It’s not about what the competition is doing that the organization isn’t, it’s about how to keep users engaged by anticipating what they didn’t know they wanted yet. So instead of thinking about the next release of a new key fob for a car, the Chief Creative Officer is thinking about jewelry with embedded technology that unlocks the car as the user approaches, adjusts the seat, sets the temperature and automatically streams music from a mobile device. They are thinking about the ‘no UI’ movement (no user interface) in design and its impact on an organization’s offering.

A Keeper of the Ecosystem

As Mark Cuban has said on The Shark Tank, one product or service is not a company. Customers expect that the products and services they purchase are part of a larger ecosystem and that those products and services seamlessly work with one another. The ecosystem can be as small as a website and a mobile app or as large as a website, mobile apps, mobile devices, tablets, wearables and more. Part of a designer’s job when designing is to consider how a new offering or feature fits into the user’s mental model of the ecosystem. Things should play well together, feel like a family and encourage users’ engagement with a company as they purchase or use more products or services within that ecosystem. A Chief Creative Officer should know the ecosystem well, and should be the voice at the table that knows how or if something fits.

Chief Creative Officers deserve a seat at the table not only because they know their users and know what they want, but because by advocating for a stellar user experience, they are helping to gain more customers, more market share, enhanced customer engagement and increased revenue.

 Misty Cripps is a Director of UX with 15 years in the industry. She has worked at Oracle, Yahoo!, and Frog Design. Her work spans verticals, from telecommunications to entertainment to technology to Internet and consumer goods. She can be reached at or @mistycripps.

Misty Cripps

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1 Comment

  • This is a construct that is fairly common that simply does not hold water. While there are *some* folks educated and trained as “creatives”, who do well with broader responsibilities, too many do not do that to support the generalization.

    I’ve never liked the supposedly defining label “creative” as it suggests people who haven’t been to D-school cannot be “creative”. You do seem to expand on this by seemingly suggesting that only D-schoolers can understand the user/customer, apply design thinking, see the big picture or balance opposing objectives. I believe many readers find both your generalized assertions about the promotability of “creatives” and “designers” (as code for design school graduates) and the dire lack of their presumed capabilities among other managers and execuatives to be overstated and questionable.

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