As the CEO and founder of an interactive content marketing platform that provides a beautiful and powerful digital design studio to users, I feel that I can safely state that most people don’t really get what “design” means.
My team and I run into these folks more often than we’d like — people who think that design is limited to branding, websites and software. But design isn’t just for graphics or interfaces. You can design pretty much anything in your business: your front door, the flow of traffic through your lobby, an onboarding process for new hires, anything.
What design ultimately comes down to is starting with a set of objectives and passionately exploring how to develop a solution based on those goals. Design fails when people begin with prescribed outputs: “I want a door” rather than “I want an easy way to pass between two rooms on a frequent basis.” And this is why design is usually relegated to the outskirts of organizations.
Why Is Design Treated as Peripheral?
Design is intangible. People undervalue the skills involved in creativity, so they treat it as a “nice to have” rather than a “need to have.” Many businesses employ designers, but more often than not, they are treated as order-takers instead of decision-makers.
With design, as with other critical roles, it’s important to describe the problem and rely on the designer’s expertise to develop the best solution – the same approach you take with a doctor, lawyer, architect or programmer.
Here’s how to not let this happen to your business:
- Realize that design matters and make it central to your business. While it may just feel like fonts, colors and ambiguity to a right-brained executive, if leveraged correctly, design will positively affect the bottom line in ways you can’t even imagine.
- Hire and empower design-minded folks at the executive level. Give them a seat at the table. Don’t just hear them; listen! Try to empathize and understand them.
- Respect your creative people at every level.
What Does It Mean to Be a Design-Centered Business?
A design-centered business acknowledges that design is a specific and valuable skill set. Not only must everyone agree that design matters, but also that it requires experts to do it well.
You need to empower design-focused individuals to have a role in leadership and have equal say in what gets done and how. The people who do best in these roles are equally right-brained and left-brained. They have to be creative, but they also have to be logical and organized.
To set your business up for success, you need to:
- Look for creative people with a solid mix of left and right brainedness at the executive level.
- Embrace genuine, well-intentioned debate and conflict during the design process.
How Can You Cultivate a Design-Centered Organization?
No matter what type of business you work for and what industry you work in, I promise you can pull off being design-centric. I’ve worked for and run large companies and now run my own relatively small (40-person) startup, and I’ve seen how this approach can work in a variety of situations.
If you want to cultivate a design-centered mindset within your entire organization, you need to:
- Teach and embrace design through the organization. Empower those with creative minds to hold workshops to educate others.
- Push yourself and your team to think beyond the obvious. Even if you feel like you already have, keep pushing harder and farther.
When these fundamentals are put into place, something magical happens. User experience becomes part of every aspect of the business – which is the key to creating long-term customer loyalty and advocacy. Throughout this transformation — and forever after — expect exceptional ideas, energy, and outputs from everyone in your team. That includes you!