The press, blogs, and Twitter have been buzzing about Marissa Mayer and her appointment as CEO at Yahoo. The focus seems to be on the fact that she is a woman and expecting a child. While this makes for an interesting discussion, what my piques my interest is that a design leader has been selected as CEO.

At Google, as employee number 20, Mayer helped the company grow into an Internet giant and household name. Mayer’s design sensibility was a core part of her success. Google is well known for its minimalist look and feel; bold colors and whimsy. She is credited with pushing for that clean, approachable look.  The New York Times wrote, “An engineer at heart, she also had something that many of her peers did not during Google’s early days: a keen sense of style and design.”

It is interesting to see value and importance that design is bringing to leadership.  For years, Apple’s Steve Jobs was one of the very few design leaders. However, today’s customers demand experiences, not just product features. Design plays a critical role in a company’s success.  Companies realize that design is not solely about aesthetics, but that it drives the creation of a total customer experience. Enlightened companies now include design as part of strategy, business models, and product and process development.

At Citrix, we are amongst the small but growing number of design led companies. Our CEO, Mark Templeton has a degree in industrial design. His vision of providing technology to empower people to work and live better relies on putting design thinking at the forefront of every product and service.  Under his leadership, Citrix has made “design thinking” a strategic initiative. And design is developing into a core cultural competency across the company as we strive to have every employee understand “why design matters to me.”

Many new programs support design leadership. The California College of the Arts offers an MBA in Design Strategy. Stanford’s has executive boot camps to immerse leaders in design thinking.  The Designer Fund invests in design founders; they see the unique value that design leaders bring to the table and want to invest in their ideas.

It’s about time.  As design becomes a core competency of today’s companies, consumers will reap the benefits of products and services that are truly designed to delight.  And the companies that deliver them and embrace design culture will emerge as the leaders.