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Adding to value to business is often intangible, but quality design is key

Adding value to business is often intangible, but quality design is key

‘Design has become a game changer in Silicon Valley…’ That is the gist of a new report from John Maeda, Design Partner at design and growth company Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers (KPCB).

Few people aware of the link between good design and successful business would argue.

Maeda focuses on the ‘rising importance of design in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.’ He argues that ‘for all of us who use a computer or mobile device, great design is changing how we live and work.’

Margaret Rhodes reviews the report in Wired and quotes Maeda as saying, ‘I wanted to connect the worlds of design, technology, and business together, so that people wouldn’t see them as three different things.’

He points out how since 2010 some 27 companies founded by designers have been acquired by bigger companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Adobe, Dropbox, and LinkedIn. Of the cumulative-funded VC-backed ventures that have raised more money since 2013, 20% have co-founders who are designers. Last year, for the first time ever, six venture capital firms invited designers to join their teams.

Design People Are Not Sprinkled Across a Company

Received wisdom has it that it was Apple who raised ‘our collective awareness’ of the importance of design.

Maeda argues that as we check our phones every 5.6 minutes, a single bad design decision can ‘pop up again and again for a user throughout the day.’ Computers were once the province of enthusiasts and technologists, people who were more forgiving of rough patches. Now, users expect things to work and to look good doing it. ‘Mobile is the gateway to the mass consumerisation of technology.’

He cited the $13bn company Airbnb, where the head of design Alex Schleifer is, according to Cliff Kuang, focussing on ‘the lines of responsibility and the linkages between designers and the organisation at large.’

This is not the perceived truth that start-ups must be ‘design-led.’ That is too simplistic. ‘Sprinkling designers’ across a creative organisation is not enough. Kuang says that Schleifer wants more people to appreciate what typically lies only within the realm of designers—the user viewpoint.

He explains that now every project team at Airbnb has a project manager whose explicit role is to represent the user, not a particular functional group like engineering or design. “Conflict is a huge and important part of innovation,” says Schleifer. ‘This structure creates points where different points of view meet, and are either aligned or not.’

Design and Business Value

Contributing to Bloomberg Business Ravi Sawhney and Deepa Prahalad took the question – what value does design add to a business? – and said it was meaningless.

Designers ‘translate and communicate the value of a business idea to consumers.’ The best designers help companies connect and establish a dialogue with consumers, thus enabling firms to innovate more efficiently.

As designers are trained to understand how people think and how to make things, the pair said there are four basic areas in which design has an important role to play in value creation:

  • Understanding the Consumer: Entrepreneurs invest heavily in understanding their consumers who themselves often give detailed suggestions about how to improve various offerings. So designers must both ‘synthesize functionality and aesthetics’ and understand consumers’ thought processes and emotions.
  • Risk Mitigation: How many times have companies pronounced that an innovation failed because it was “ahead of its time”? Design is a process of synthesizing insights into a tangible offering in a way that addresses the goals of the company and the desires of consumers.
  • Boosting Marketing and Branding: Many of the world’s top brands are also design leaders. Design is a fundamental part of creating an image and experience of luxury, exclusivity, and tribal belonging.
  • Sustainability Design: The need to consume must be balanced with our need to be good stewards of the planet? Design ensures brands retain their image and deliver a superior experience while reducing parts, waste, and carbon footprint.

They concluded by saying, ‘great designers, like visionary business leaders, create value by exploring without limitation through the psyche and psychology of consumers. They assemble teams of individuals who see the world through different eyes and explore what should be as opposed to what is. They show discipline in doing more with less.’

They said that combining forces creates new business opportunities, aspirational pathways, revenue and sustainable business growth. If you haven’t done already, it’s time for you and your business to talk to Dessol about design and MBF about your data needs.

Recent design blogs:

Design Books About Imagination Come In All Shapes and Sizes, 12 March 2015

Past, Present and Future Design is the Key to Life, 16 December 2014

Something of the Importance of Design for Words and Messages, 10 November 2014

Image: National Museum of Korea