An Important Time for Design

by Cameron Koczon

22 Reader Comments

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  1. Good article. Inspiring.
    To add to your list of organization/incubators to out there is the recent Designer’s Fund (http://designerfund.com/). I am not affiliated with it but have been fascinated with its genesis, since a couple of years ago I was noticing the “designer-based startup” here in San Francisco. Joe Gebbia of Airbnb, being a shining example and a few friends of mine as well.

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  2. Yeah, the Designer Fund should be in that list. I’ll see if I can get it added in.

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  3. Web designer must take responsibility for the result.
    But he must also have the opportunity to work in a team of professionals, creative freedom and opportunity for growth.

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  4. For a Startup to Succeed, you need:

    1. to be solving something worth solving
    2. a sustainable business model
    3. a great product that’s easy to understand and delightful to use
    4. to excite the right audience with the right message

    Disciplines and skills needed are:

    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Marketing
    • Design

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  5. In the link to the “misguided ideas about what design is” the author seems very proud of himself for saying that Apple didn’t start out with great design and began by building products out of wood in their garage. While this is completely true, he is missing a key point that many people forget. Apple started building products in their garage when the bar was set very low for design. People point at Apple now as the bar to hit because that is what is expected by consumers. When apple started the bar was in the basement so there was no need to invest in great design at the time. Fast forward to now and it is a totally different world. Consumers are not as wowed by solid features in the back end as much as they are by the experience of using the product on the front end.

    Non-designers can argue all they want about whether there is more value in a new feature than in a slick UI, but I have seen too many developers just ignore the fact that what users want is something that is easy and pleasurable to use.

    If I was a startup building PCs I just couldn’t build a machine that is amazing under the covers and nail together a wooden box in my garage to hold it. So the argument that startups should compare them selves to Apple as a startup is just plain silly in 2012.

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  6. I must add that, one of the happiest experiences I’ve had was working with a great developer; he’d be coding and I’d be writing the CSS for display—live, while on the phone. Excellent time, and great result.

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  7. Diane, I regularly do skype/remote desktop sessions with clients, but while it’s certainly better than nothing I feel it can’t beat, pardon the expression, real face time.

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  8. I agree that capital is a big issue for the design community — we do not have the culture of re-investing, like Silicon Valley does. We are also not focused on raising (often) ridiculous sums of money with the goal of a quick, lucrative exit. Designers care more about the craft than the money, and this is a good thing, because I don’t think you need much money to get an idea off the ground these days.

    The bar to getting started is so low, you only need to pair up with a good developer to get a minimum viable product going. Any team of two can bootstrap a product while continuing to do client or full-time work. But having access to small amounts of seed money would certainly accelerate the process for many of us.

    More Y-Combinator-ish incubators and educational spaces like General Assembly will help designers get their ideas off the ground. And there is definitely an opportunity for more funds like The Designer Fund.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Cameron!

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  9. I completely second keith. As a designer, I find that crafting good designs is always the most important thing. Money will come by it’s own. I joined a good ios developer and a great copywriter, while I take care of design and html. What else would we need?
    We already made a couple of products that made us pretty popular, and are now so buried in jobs that we can’t even find the time to promote us. Why should we need money to grow? We don’t. We just need to continue improving.

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  10. Thanks for the inspiring article. I’ve started my professional life as a product designer moving into UX and I see how your point fits perfectly to these two domains. Two designers as start-up founders? I say amen to that.

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  11. The startup community is certainly reassuring how important good design is. All I want next to happen is a local business seeing the true importance of good design. They are currently being swayed by poor design firms that what they are creating for them is good. It’s not good. It looks like what Mr. 2000 was designing. Maybe local businesses think they don’t need good design on their web properties because they don’t think their property is of great value to them. I certainly think that if it was well designed your local businesses would stand out amongst everyone in the town and whether you might not get more traffic through your doorstep you will get more traffic through the interwebs that is bound to keep you at your brick and mortar shop and supporting the local economy. Good design is powerful, it’s just a hard sell to some.

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  12. Excellent article.

    I am an serial entrepreneur as well, with a background in print design. Still, the article spoke to me on many levels-

    In my opinion, we need to revisit the label of “designer”, because the definition is very narrow (at least it is perceived that way). Most people think of design as pure esthetics, while good design encompasses so much more: functionality, strategy, and message. 20-30 years ago, design was a rather elite field with designers requiring specialized tools. Today, anyone with a computer can call him/herself a designer.

    I continue to do consulting, but have changed my title to brand strategist, and am currently rebranding/renaming my consulting business to better define where I fall: more aesthetically focused than a marketer, more voice driven than a designer.

    With so much access to media, today’s consumers are very sophisticated. Design as afterthought just doesn’t cut it.

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  13. Great article. I really appreciate your thoughts and found this article inspiring. Just the shot in the arm I was looking for!

    Cheers!

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  14. http://n-y-p-d.com

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  15. This article is, in short, one with the most rational and realistic line of thinking that I have read about our recent design world. There are two points that are still lingering for me, and that will ensure that I read and share this several times over.

    The first is the point about Design As a Partner, and designers taking their fair share of both risk and rewards. I can’t agree enough that this is a line of thinking that we all need to hold in esteem. Ignoring that design is a profession that contributes, a huge amount, to the financial, social and good will success of any business is a big mistake. We are doing ourselves a disservice by keeping our minds in the fantasy realm and not entering the business realm, even in a small way.

    The second point is that which is threaded throughout the article that I love, and that is that we, like developers, need to rise up and not just be builders. Accepting our roles as builders, and waiting for others outside of our profession to change this perspective for us,  is what causes a huge amount of the complaints from our community that design doesn’t get respect. We have to give ourselves respect first and teach others how to treat design and there is no better way to do so then, as you mention, observe and study how development did it.

    Great article… thank you for writing it!

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  16. Large companies (non-internet of course) are getting into design more and more. They have old systems and are going through a redesign like we’ve never seen before.

    I work for a very large corporation (to remain nameless) that is starting to understand how an aesthetically pleasing design can help their employees in many ways.  I believe their old, poor designs have been created by the hands of rushed developers trying to meet a particular release date.

    Design isn’t the only part of this process. More and more large organizations are not only focusing on their designs, but also on how the designs will be used and interacted with by their users. Usability is a new facet of design and will continue to see much more growth in 2012 and beyond.

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  17. Great article. Timely for me since I’ve found myself in the situation described: start-up, sole web/interactive designer and in charge of UX/UI.

    It’s true that design shouldn’t be considered a commodity. Designing should NOT just be the simple act of “skinning” applications. I’m fortunate that I was hired on with the responsibility of improving overall UX/UI and not just as a “designer”. This has enabled me to directly affect the UX/UI in a predominately development focused/driven environment. Even better, everyone is focused on what is best for the user. I’m also involved at the product level and we are working though UX/UI even before the Dev’s start building. We’ve had great results and it really helps bridge the gaps from pre-inception to full release.

    Again great article and I love the “electric fence” reference. I’ve been sharing this article with everyone within the company.

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  18. Get High Quality CMS websites for Low cost for your business. Avail Web design and Graphics Designing solutions along with logos,images @ webbeets.com

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  19. Good article kevin,
    Specially when HTML5 and css3 building its way to new design era, the lines are increasing more than layers and that is more important when it comes to page-speed.
    One thing that really disturbs me when i handover the nicely build HTML design to the developers and they just slaughter the whole design without knowing what they are doing. They should be more careful with the desgin, at least they should know basic html.

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  20. I found this post through a google search, thank you for your article

    “Web Design Company”:http://www.sminfosoft.com
    “Technology News”:http://update-technologynews.blogspot.in/

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  21. Hey,thank you for sharing.i agree with you.this is great.

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  22. An amazing article! Timely. I need to put some of the key concepts and phrases to memory when talking with clients.

    Comment #11 from byderekj, and #12 from Maja, really hit my nail on the head. 

    An “exacto-knife-era” graphic designer, I have now added the title of “Strategic Visual Designer” to my marketing. I love being involved in the development of a small companies message and look, beginning with a great mark! 2012 is to be a “re-design of my priorities” year and this article really outlines a clear path.

    One question: How does one compete with “CMS for low cost” from a designer in India or a “5 page website for $50” from a “new designer” in Israel, looking to build their portfolio? Half of my design work is gratis [for local non-profits], but being expected to work for peanuts gets old.

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