Thu Oct 14 2010

The "d" in Design

The design profession is unlucky. Unlike other professions where practitioners are clearly identifiable, what they do clearly documented and how they do it often a thing of science, design is and has none of those things. Design is like a country that shares borders with an huge number of others - to the point of almost losing it’s own identity. Despite this identity loss, however, design also often acts as the central piece that binds everything together. That makes things ‘tick’.

Ask anyone what design means and see them raise an eyebrow, then try to articulate a sentence, and then possibly raise their shoulders while skipping an answer altogether. For some, it is about how things look, while for others it is how things work. For some, it is how you experience the world, while for others it is a way of expressing things, personal or professionally. For some managers, design is the lipstick you put on your product before it walks through the door on the way out to the world. For other managers, often called ‘visionaries’ or ‘geniuses’, it is the driving force behind the product itself.

If you don’t think of design with a lower-case ‘d’, you’re not there yet. I’ve been talking about design in startups a lot recently. The more I talk about it, the more people from all over the design spectrum reach out to me with their thoughts. I often find, however, that a lot of people are still stuck on design as user interface - and while UI is a large component of what it takes to be successful, it is definitely not everything you need. While you do need a “Designer” (mind the capitalization) to make your product pretty, you need a “designer” to guide it. To make meaning out of what you’re trying to achieve.

Get a designer with a lower-case ‘d’ today, and start thinking about design not as the lipstick before release, but the blueprint for your business.

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