“Entrepreneurial strategy has more chance of success the more it starts out with the users — their utilities, their values, their realities… the test of an innovation is always what it does for the user. Hence, entrepreneurship always needs to be market-focused, indeed, market-driven. — P Drucker.
This fundamental understanding of creating business value is key to the value of design. The Design process is central to innovation and scaling for the sole reason that it allows to visualise & simulate markets and response. Thereby creating fertile grounds to create for and reach the user with precision.
This outlook towards design builds the foundation of why you should employ design, and how should you shape its role and function in any organisation.
What we see today in most organisations is that there is an acknowledgement of design as a key ingredient to success but there are also gaping holes in its application. Particularly so in the environment created, which doesn’t allow the design process to play out.
This largely stems from a misguided outlook of design and the underlying value most perceive it can deliver, and also partly due to the difficulty in articulating the role of design in tangible terms.
Most organisations approach design and designers from a point of view of building the visual and mechanical aspects of user experience and interface.
It’s about Information architecture, wireframes and graphical detailing with the latter carrying the most weight. That’s how the interviews are structured, designers are chased and teams are appreciated. Even platforms which have become a yardstick to measure interaction designers are focused on the final aesthetics and are distant from highlighting the design process or efficacy with its users.
This is leading to a lack of sensitisation towards the fundamental value of design i.e. for design “Consumer” is the canvas. It’s not just about the pixels — grid, colour, typography or transitions.
The best designers in the world are simply not the ones with just the skills of aesthetic and mechanical detailing which is indeed a basic skill needed, but the ones who can observe deeper, interpret better, a prototype with imagination & iterate with precision.
This is absolutely at the heart of design, it requires empathising with the user and that is the core of design.
For Design unlike art, the consumer is the canvas.
The suggested application of design is also an absolute conjunction with the journey of a successful product which has two main functions i.e.
- To develop product-market fit
- Drive growth (or capture markets)
These functions too require companies to observe market conditions, interpret opportunities, prototype solutions, seek feedback, iterate, and ship to offer a solution which is loved.
Its common knowledge that what you start as an idea is almost always not what ends up as a product-market fit. You have to go through multiple rounds of observe-interpret-prototype-iterate. Even if you have developed a product market fit in a particular market, to enter new markets changes are needed in product experience to suit local environments. The design process essentially allows one too and simulate these market allowing for faster, precise and more frugal approach to delighting the user at scale.
It’s easier said than done, such application of design requires not only a change in the industry and how it embraces design but also a change in the conduct and practice of designers — a lone designer sitting in front of a computer will not be able to respond to the complex market requirement which is in a constant flux and has multiple factor points to consider.
The change to allow design at the decision-making table requires designers to engage with interdisciplinary teams of engineers, finance, anthropologists, suppliers, manufacturers, analysts, etc. Designers will have to have the disposition to collaborate and work at the intersection of business, and technology.
To enable these organisations will need to create an environment to harbour great design. It needs to align people, process and tools to create inter-disciplinary teams coalesced with the design process.
Over the past decade, I have been involved in the functioning of design from heavily resourced behemoths to hyper-growth startups and have arrived at an approach which helps develop a great design practice.
This takes into consideration what I call the 5C’s, which have come to be the basic tenets associated with a systemic approach to create design centred companies. These include a design approach which is
These steps are not linear but overlapping and aid to each other, although point 5 supersedes all others.