Why design should have a place at the table

In developing countries, where industries are still being educated on the value and practice of design, our craft is often misunderstood and the first one to be sacrificed. I think this is a big mistake. Unfortunately designers are often regarded as immature pretty-stuff-makers that need to obey to the (often unqualified) opinions of management, marketing or development.

Lets break it down.

Like Johnny Ive said, there are so many givens in a business that design is one of the very few things you are truly in control of. Instead of taking advantage of this, design is often hindered by a lack of market research, proper project management or vision. Design, both functional and aesthetic, has become on of the few properties that differentiates a product. Technological progress and globalization has made it easy for products to be build at the same speed, have the same technical features. For example, let’s take a look at the mobile industry. Almost all phones released in 2014 and 2015 have similar features and satisfy the same needs. The design of the product is now one of the main attributes that a buyer takes into consideration (Is the UI a pleasure to use? Does it look cool? Is it a fashion / status statement?). Why? Because most of the technical specs have become implicitly expected. Things like running several apps, taking decent photos or playing videos and music on your smartphone have become a mandatory requirement.

Let’s compare design with a practice that is better understood because it’s been around for ages – architecture. You don’t need to be a great builder in order to be a great architect but you do need to understand basic things like how different materials fit together. The same is true when you are the architect of a business. You need to be able to envision how the final product will look, perform and feel in the hands of the customer in order to set realistic business goals. Of course, I’m not saying designers should have the right to veto a business decision but I firmly believe design should have a place at the decision-makers table if you want to be able to make a well-rounded and competent decision. So make sure you take into account the advice of everyone who will contribute to your house – carpenters, electricians, interior designers, plumbers and maybe event gardeners :)

It takes a special effort sometimes to recognize your limits and accept that you’re wrong, especially if you’re an entrepreneur who invested a lot in a project. Practice humbleness and openness. It will get you ahead.

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