In recent years, the public recognition of design as a, maybe even the, deciding factor for long-term success of a business has increased tremendously. People admire companies like Apple, Leica or Miele for their incredible products and the experiences they deliver.
In the tech and startup industry, design is the new magic word. An uncountable amount of articles, essays and blog posts have been written and even greater amount of keynote speeches on the importance of design have been given. The reality is, only a few companies are taking design seriously and make it the core of their business. You can’t get design without going all-in.
Don’t build products, create value
The goal of design is to bring user needs and business goals together in a delightful experience. Good design is an exchange of value for money. It’s easy to build products, but hard to provide value. Therefore, design-driven businesses are excellent at observing user needs and providing solutions that match them. In order to start and grow such companies, you need to have the right management, employees and partners (read: investors).
Looking in on the industry, there are three key questions to be discussed in order to not only talk about design, but actually bring design to the core of each business.
Why do companies have a Chief Technology Officer, but rarely a Chief Design Officer?
Your product experience is the result of design and technology. In a healthy company, both fields should inspire and challenge each other constantly. When it comes to the management structure in most companies though, you rarely find a C-level representative with a design background. Ideally the founder and CEO is a designer. If that’s not the case, you should consider hiring a Chief Design Officer to bring in the knowledge and expertise needed to do great design work.
Why is there a salary gap between designers and engineers?
Salaries are not solely connected to the value an employee contributes toward the success of a company. However, the difference sends a clear message that there’s still a general salary gap between engineers and designers. Excellent designers are as rare as excellent engineers. In a design-driven company, this should receive just as much precedence.
Why doesn’t every VC have a design partner?
Besides providing you with money, VCs are partners that help build and grow your business. Numbers and financials are an important part of your company, and VCs are the ones who typically excel with that. They understand market dynamics and have the collective experience of many businesses before yours. However, their collective experience is often on a non-product level. A VC having a design partner would reduce the risk of portfolio companies failing or more importantly, making more accurate investments from the very beginning.
Design is not how it looks
Design is not just the pretty surface or shiny pixels. Design makes products work and people feel. Ultimately, design is a way of looking at the world with the customer in the center and the goal to provide value. By doing so, you will undoubtedly create better products. Products that people need, want, and are willing to pay for.
The only way you win big time, is when you go all-in on design.