Blog Archive Jan 23, 2012

Design is good for your business

It might seem like a late reaction to a very self-conscious statement, however the discussion seems to belong to one of those evergreen questions examining the value of design and its impact on the business.
One thing is for sure – everything is designed, consciously or not. The question is whether you paid attention or paid a blatancy fine.

A recent ALA article “An Important Time for Design” states, that today is the best time for design. The design industry is on the rise, the business recognizes the importance of the value generated by relevant design. So where are the design millionaires hiding? Haven’t seen anyone yet.

To answer the polarizing article on the design as “horseshit”: design is not decoration. Decoration is decoration. Design’s primary goal always was (and today even more increasingly is so) to add and maintain the value. Certainly, for any business, be it a start-up or a traditional family business, it is absolutely critical to offer core value for the customer. When talking about a geschäft, a customer will not describe design in first place, but the core offering: “they sell bikes, and their selection is huge” or “they do office cleaning and do it very thoroughly”. And as no new customer will let his or her friend to sign them up without their consent, it means that he or she will have to get convinced on their own. The first meeting point might be a website that they will google or a local strore with a street address, which they will visit in person. Winning new customers with design starts already there. Easy, well-arranged sign up forms, clear product description, logically built workflows, structured POS design, functional packaging, readable booklets (really!) – it is all built to win new customer and cater returning customers and add value to the core business offering.

I would even say, that a business may skip advertising and brand-building promotion, but should consider investing in the design of their products and services.

I am also very happy for the author of that article to have basic skills to be able to design a website without giving it much thought – a truly generalist way which always does wonders for any small business. Imagine throwing all those interface parts together without giving them a second thought – a business offer may never be discovered in the first place. Lean startup theory and core values of design are the best friends!

“What start-up can afford a design service? It costs a ton and doesn’t deliver any tangible result”. For one, this is a question of business model a design shop follows. But I can add more oil into this fire and say that there are a lot of designers out there, who are egocentric and self-serving hippsters, considering themselves to have mad skills within an elitist trade. They are expensive, difficult to handle, fragile and spontaneous – and are mostly in business of decoration.

The designer of today has to be a generalist, a person with skills required to handle his tools and do most of the tasks required, but he also needs some profound business skills – listen, question, analyse, offer strategies.

A design shop should be a consultancy, too. This duality belongs to the core offering of any design business today.

Either that, or the industry will never change its vision of design as a-nice-to-have decoration accessory and tertiary priority on the list.