As Steven Jobs famously said, "Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it's this veneer -- that the designers are handed this box and told, 'Make it look good!' That's not what we think design is. It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." Design and its cousin Design Thinking now have the attention of top executives in major corporations as a means of reinventing their companies, solving complex problem, and creating meaningful innovation.

If you are interested in emerging insights about design, investing, tech, and business, you will want to read John Maeda's 2017 Design In Tech Report (or watch the video). Maeda is a Strategic Advisor to KPCB, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, and Global Head of Computational Design at Automattic (the parent company of WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, and others).

"Today's most beloved technology products and services balance design and engineering in a way that perfectly blends form and function. Businesses started by designers have created billions of dollars of value, are raising billions in capital, and VC firms increasingly see the importance of design."
--John Maeda

Key insights from the 2017 Design in Tech Report will illuminate business opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs:

  1. Keep customer experience in mind when building businesses. Experience and design have become a priority for all kinds of businesses because so many aspects of the technological revolution have become commoditized. When a technology matures, that's when design becomes especially relevant as the differentiating factor. That time, for tech, is now.
  2. Constant connectivity in the digital era has brought the idea of "computational design" to the forefront. According to data from LinkedIn, the highest echelon of the technology industry is vying for more computational design talent. Facebook, Google, and Amazon have collectively grown their art and design headcount by 65% in the past year.
  3. Adopting an inclusive design approach expands a tech product's total addressable market. Historically speaking, technology products weren't designed with inclusivity in mind because the users of the products were generally the makers of the products. The number of people using computers used to be very small. However today, due to smartphone proliferation, everyone is now using computers. To design for everyone and to grow user bases, we need to now think and work more inclusively than ever before.
  4. Making inclusive design profitable hinges on the principle that if you want to reach a larger market, you have to reach people you're not already reaching by being inclusive. This new frontier of design requires some technical understanding outside of purely classical design. The hybrid designer/developer, referred to as a "unicorn" in the tech industry, is often relied upon to bridge that gap.
  5. Scaling design in tech companies continues to be a challenge because there's no single, dominant tool for collaboration in computational design teams. This won't be a large area of market activity because the problem isn't a gigantic, "unicorn"-sized one; but the right advancements in digital design tools will unlock greater speed and a higher standard of quality in user experiences.
  6. Chinese design in tech principles and practices are leading the world, but are often overlooked. Alibaba, Visual China and Xiaomi -- have designer co-founders and a combined market cap of over $300B.

Two more tidbits from the report:

  • 27% of the internet is powered by WordPress.
  • 8 of the top 10 smartphone apps are owned by Facebook or Google. You think you have choice, but you don't.
Published on: Mar 31, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.