What's your favorite brand? Why do you enjoy using it, interacting with it, and buying from it? Is it the way the product feels or looks? Is it great customer service?
What is design really for?
Too many people dismiss design as a form of art--something we slap on to a finished product to make it look pretty.
The truth is, design is a way of thinking that informs every part of your business. The prolific 20th century designer Charles Eames posited, "Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose."
In other words, to create a quality product is to think clearly and plan strategically in order to achieve your goals. This all-encompassing way of thinking starts from your business model and stems out to your website, customer experience, and, yes, the visual design of your products and collateral.
The success of a business is all about its customers. And a customer's impression of your business comes down to each interaction they have with you. When well-designed, each interaction is "intuitive, simple, and friendly," explains Harris Shaw, Creative Director at Wunderman. This translates into a better customer experience, higher customer loyalty, and a higher LTV of each customer.
What happens when businesses ignore design?
"Good design is good business," former IBM president Thomas Watson Jr. famously said.
Creating a quality design takes the time to listen to customers, work out solutions to their needs, then translate those solutions into customer service, product design, copywriting, visual design, and more.
If any piece of the puzzle is missing, it raises a red flag with your customers. "If a company doesn't take care of their public image," explains design consultant Beatriz Gámez, "you are left to wonder if that echoes in other parts of the company."
Bad aesthetics is a nail in the coffin. Gámez remembers passing the Mervyn's department store as a child growing up in Texas. Even at a young age, something about the store struck her as outdated. Mervyn's never developed a website or updated their logo for a new generation of customers, and sure enough, they went bankrupt in the early 2000's.
Design is never the ultimate reason why businesses shut down, but it is always an indicator that there's something wrong deep within the company. And customers can sense it from a mile away.
How can I build a design team for my business?
Ready to get serious about design? As a business owner, visual arts may not be your strong suit, but you can hire a team to help you translate your ideas into well-designed products and experiences.
The first step is to invest in an HR team for your company who can help you to find good talent. If that's not possible, you can enlist the help of recruiters who have connections in the design industry.
Harris advises that it's important to evaluate a designer's portfolio to make sure they can respond to a number of different design challenges with a clear thinking process. You want to make sure they can think about problems conceptually and not just visually, and that they're willing to learn new skills as needed.
Take it from Eames who helped make modern architecture what it is today. "We don't do 'art'--we solve problems," he once said. "How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?"