Design is business & Business is Design

“I just need the bare-bones for now… We’re on a time-line crunch, so I don’t have time for pretty.” (Business Owner, June 2009)

That is a direct quote overheard while I was waiting for my mocha latte at Starbucks a few weeks ago. It could have come from anyone given the sentiments behind the statement are very common:  function is more important than form & time or money is tight.

The business analyst on the receiving end of that quote is a friend and I later heard the rest of the story involving an important custom program being written to improve operations for a medium size company.  A smart implementation of such a system could potentially add an additional 20% profits to their bottom line.

“Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation” (Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc.)

Well, a lot of people would concede that design is hugely important for a company like Apple. After all they compete with the best all over the world, right? What about smaller companies? What if they don’t design technical gadgets? Surely, design is more of a luxury then…

“Design has become a professional obsession. I simply believe that design per se is the principal reason for emotional attachment (or detachment) relative to a product or service or experience. Design, as I see it, is arguably the #1 determinant of whether a product-service-experience stands out… or doesn’t. Furthermore, it’s another “one of those things” that damn few companies put – consistently – on the front burner.” (Tom Peters, Management Guru)

Hmmm… If you don’t know of Tom (, his company website will keep you hooked reading all kinds of interesting business material for hours. He’s been dispensing business advice since the early 80s and he’s NOT a designer – he is one of the best business consultants in the world.

I maintain that “design” is broader in scope than aesthetics (pretty fonts and colors) and it is far too important to be an afterthought. Design is about business and about creating purposeful change for the better. Don’t take my word for it, read Marty Neumeier’s book – The Designful Company)

I think that for design to be effective one must have a clear set of goals – outcomes. While consulting with clients regarding a custom software application or e-Commerce website, I argue that the ultimate goal for the project is sustainable business through long term profits. The best way to get there is to place the end user at the center of the design and try to look through his/her eyes.

Good design is the first step in the following domino effect: Design drives innovation (read cost savings and efficiency); innovation powers brand development; brand builds loyalty (having met your clients goals better than others); and loyalty results in profits.

Let me ask you two questions:

1. Have you ever taken notice of good design? I know you’ve noticed poor design… We all do.

2. How beneficial to your business would it be if you did something about the poor design around you?


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