Why you need to engage your designer in business on a much deeper level…

Two things have got me thinking over the last couple of weeks about what my role is as a designer. Is it to take a brief and deliver? Or is it to think beyond the brief and how the work I deliver actually impacts change amongst my clients and their customers?

I’m going to go with the latter. I mean it sounds far more important, right? And that’s because it is.

When I was running my former agencies, my sales & marketing / business dev partner would often excitedly tell me “We’ve won the job D! We need to design a new website for client XX!”

“Fantastic!” I used to say. Before quickly following it up with “But why?!”

You’d be astonished with the amount of times the response was “Just because! That’s what I’ve sold.”

Alright then. Cue generic redesign.

Hold up. Let’s go back a stage. Let’s ask ‘why’ again.

Here’s an example using the website designed to promote Paperwrk (a service I’m co-founder of):

Whilst developing the customer journey for Paperwrk after our major pivot recently, we realised we’d made the whole process of signing-up, paying for, and using the service too complicated, and that meant we were putting up barriers to sale.

Now the service itself didn’t need to change too much. It was just by looking at the website and putting ourselves in the customer’s position, it obviously wasn’t clear enough for new users what to do. Using the service wasn’t an issue – but communicating its value and then generating revenue would be. We had started to try and offer too many products for too many different user profiles. Whether we’d invoked analysis paralysis or simply added too much complexity, it was clearly going to impact sales.

Because of that, we’ve been working on a brand new website design, going back to basics, stripping out a lot of the complexity, and focusing on one core message, and one core service, with optional bolt-ons. We’ve come away from ‘developing’ the business model, and more towards making sure the ‘design’ makes sense.

A high-profile example of this type of redesign was demonstrated by Apple in the mid 90s. You might remember when Steve Jobs ‘came back’, he got rid of any product range that wasn’t core business. It actually went down to just 4 products. Pro Desktop and Laptop models, and Consumer Desktop and Laptop models. It worked because people were no longer confused about what to buy – and the rest is history. If only it were still as simple these days.

STRIPING IT BACK = EASIER DECISION MAKING FOR CONSUMERS

This type of design thinking is essential in today’s business market, and I think there’s a few reasons for that.

When I did my talk on how I work recently, one of the fundamental takeaways I wanted to get across was how important it is to be concise – and designers are *great* at this. That’s because we love removing anything superfluous and getting to the core message. Not only does it make our job easier – but it forces you to think about what’s really important, what’s going to really make the difference. And if it doesn’t, it can go.

Secondly, designers’ are great at seeing the way things could be, as opposed to the way things are. This is a fundamental business tool – particularly for startups or growing businesses. Looking forward, visualising what you want to achieve for you and your brand, product, or service, is exceptionally powerful, and it’s one of the things experienced designers are particularly good at, particularly if they’ve got a wide range of experience from which to draw from.

Then of course, there’s the ability to ‘design’ the path forward. Like it or not, products and services these days are defined by how strong their brand is. Not just how it looks and feels, but how concise the message is, how appealing its personality is, as well as how ‘good’ the product or service actually is. Drawing out these elements, is again, where designers shine.

Ultimately, design has the power to fundamentally impact almost any area of a business – and that’s why you need to work with your designer so closely, make them a key partner within your business – because their vision, their skills, their ability to ask ‘why’, and their understanding of your answer to that question could be the difference between getting it just about right, or absolutely driving change and becoming the leading brand within your market.

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Further Insights

Why you need to engage your designer in business on a much deeper level…

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