CDO Moving Design Towards Strategy

CDO | Organizational Development

Apple, Google. Alibaba and other big global companies can see CDO (Chief Design Officer) in their list of co-founders. Who is the CDO, what can the CDO do?

Background & Challenges

In 2017, CBi China Bridge began a special sort of project. Our partner Rudy Wimmer acted as a CDO, participating in the internal launch of a new material for Covestro.



Breaking Through Traditional Company Culture

Bayer MaterialScience has been operating under the name Covestro since 2015, the company is independent but remains a subsidiary of Bayer AG. Covestro is the world’s leading producer of advanced polymers and top-quality products. In 2016 Covestro developed a new composite material (CFRTP) and operated as an internal startup project. Rudy recalls "The first time I contacted the Covestro team, I found that most of them had background knowledge in technology and were quite enthusiastic about this new material; but they were full of technical parameters. I found out that what we need is not just a simple marketing strategy, but understanding the design, understanding the designer, understanding how the designer works, and most importantly thinking like a designer, they need a new team culture”

David mentioned “I clearly remember that I talked for three hours with Rudy for the first time. His insight on innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and organizational culture made me think that he was the one I was looking for” during the interview. After communicating with the co-CEO David Hartmann, Rudy’s ideas quickly gained his approval. 

In order to better introduce this new material to the designer group, Covestro found CBi China Bridge and hoped that we could help sort out the market strategy. However, there are more challenges than just sorting out market strategies. With the support of David, CBI China Bridge and Covestro launched the year round CDO project, responsible for the design strategy, design landing, organizational empowerment and ecological resources of the entrepreneurial team. 

Insights and Breakthrough

Design Thinking Lesson One: Empathy, Cross Border Collaboration 

Covestro's biggest challenge is exploring the field of application for this new material. 

With Rudy’s advice and guidance, Covestro began to imagine the application of materials in different industries, made prototypes, hand perceive materials and understand designer workflow. In the process, CBI China Bridge introduced a number of industry leaders and companies to Covestro. The team members continuously learn and improve in the process of contact with designers and design institutions in different industries. 


Design Thinking Lesson Two: "Learning through making", Prototype and Iteration 

Covestro team works with designers from different industries to learn design strategy. 


Two Major Methodologies Allow Design Culture to Penetrate into Corporations

Half a year after the CFRTP team was formed, they already had their own office space and the CDO Rudy designed a space for them to be fully open. Not only is there an innovative graffiti wall, but there’s also a Maker Area that occupies a quarter of the office, which has a variety of tools and materials for modeling.

David said “I love this design so much. Everyone who walks into this office will be amazed. I’m very proud. "

This office design makes our office look like we are not just a group of people with technology background, we understand design too.  



In addition to the design of the office environment, Rudy is also responsible for the structure and presentation of CFRTP material market communication content, and assists in the development of strategy for industry promotion. With Rudy’s help, Covestro hired a cross- border designer to design concepts, have design results and applied for a patent.

David recalled “I remember that at JEC’s show, Rudy took pictures with his own camera and actively communicated with every visitor who came to our booth to understand their needs and explore the connection point between us and our customers. This is for us. The team is a very important lesson. Rudy has done a great thing, he organized a co-creation and the three divisions of Covestro stopped discussing for the first time. Instead, create and solve problems together.”

It’s important to have a leader who knows the value of design. The Co-CEO’s of Covestro CFRTP: David Hartmann and Michael Schmidt believe in the value of design. With their support CBi China Bridge and Covestro have prolonged the process for another year and have now collaborated for 2 years. 

Discoveries & Value

Understanding the CDO

The American Design Management Association (DMI) spent 10 years tracking the relationship between research design and business. According to DMI research, design-driven companies such as Apple, Nike, Pepsi have achieved a 228% higher return over the past 10 years than the S&P 500. This is the value of design. 




Each company will have different design departments such as product design, APP design, store design, and graphic design. How to lead cross-departmental collaboration, so that products and services present a complete and unified image, bringing consumers an unparalleled smooth experience, and let each contact accurately convey the brand's information and values?

You Need a CDO!

In 2012, PepsiCo. set up the position of CDO and reported to the CEO


In 2015, Jonylve, senior vice president of Apple Design, was promoted to CDO, responsible for Apple hardware, user interface, packaging, Apple Park and Apple retail stores, and future projects


In 2016, Daimler AG established a new CDO position...


Tips for hiring a CDO are as follows


Co-Creation: In addition to the design of the office environment, Rudy is also responsible for the structure and presentation of CFRTP material market communication content, and assists in the development of strategy for industry promotion. With the help of Rudy, Covestro hired a cross-border designer to design concepts, have design results, and applied for a patent. “The biggest change after Rudy joined is that he is helping us to build a solid base, build a team work culture and drive the ecosystem related to our business.” – CEO David Hartmann



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