We Need More Design Co-Founders

Thanks to www.picjumbo.com for this photo.

The digital industry is profoundly led by tech and business. This makes a complete sense since you need the tech to have a product and business to identify the market and sell it. Said that we put increasing emphasis on customer experience. Startups hire designers to do research, design and validation.

As the design industry is a highly specialised one, companies need a few people to do the job. Namely, we are looking for a researcher, UX designer and a visual designer.

Startup budgets are usually tight. Therefore, new companies hire a visual designer “since that’s what customers see”. That’s about where most startups make a crucial mistake. A mistake that can cost us the business because we haven’t understood our customers and built partially or entirely irrelevant product.

There is also a different direction — fund a company with VC money and hire freelancers. VC funded startup can hire a few really good designers who are great in their niche. Founders now manage designers. Most entrepreneurs have a business or tech background and may not fully appreciate what it takes to be customer-centric. This creates an environment where design is a necessary evil as opposed to strategic incentive ranked at the very top.

There must be a better way.

The most crucial decision when one starts a company is finding the right business partners. As mentioned in the beginning, the very minimum we need is tech and business partnership. It shows natural to add design co-founder to the picture. Why? Because most companies label themselves as customer-centric these days. If we are truly committed, it should be seen at the foundations of a newly born startup.

This new co-founder would be a pragmatic full stack designer who knows her strengths and weaknesses. Full stack implies designer can’t be a specialist in everything but can research and design end-to-end. As soon as the company grows, design co-founder can lead hiring of specialised designers to get optimal results.

The knowledge stays inside. The company’s direction is shaped and course corrected thanks to frequent customer insights. The startup is customer-centric since its inception.

How do you feel about the idea of design co-founder?