Are Designers Responsible For Business Success?

Design is the problem boy of careers. I could say that one of the main reasons for it is that the world find difficult to measure the value of such an intangible thing.

Can it be quantified? How can you measure if a design idea was good or bad? What are the metrics for that?

The role of a designer was never as foggy as we are witnessing today. We live on the already heavy-used term “millenial” generation where everything is nothing and nothing is everything. Product Designers, UX Designers, Web Designers, Interior Designers, Graphic Designers… What is the difference by the way? Wasn’t design a thinking discipline instead of a mass production one? Do you qualify a designer’s hability by a beautiful portfolio or by his/her processes and standpoints? Behance community would disagree on that last part.

The trap

Usually when interviewed a designer is asked about his projects, if the projects where big/small, with big/small companies and if the projects were successful.

Successful? Successful in what sense? Is the designer directly related to the success of a product/app/company? I say no. Unless everybody reports to the design team and the design team makes the ultimate decision.

I argue that there is an infinity of factors that are not directly related to the design itself. Of course the design is responsible for functionalities, materializing ideas, bringing concepts to light through forms, colors and seductive aesthetics, I take the blame, we designers are big responsibles if a product doesn’t work or is impossible to turn into reality. But i ask a question to all designers, have any of you found yourselves on situations where you did not take big decisions as a team? We never work alone.

But business plans, partnerships, supply-chains, technology, logistics, marketing and product launching strategies, engineering safety and a lot of other factors (that of course have touchpoints with the design) are not the responsibility of designers.

I believe myself and a lot of other designers found ourselves many times in a job interview, or just explaining a project, and then comes the big question: was the project successful? Can I see it? And suddenly you find yourself in a complicated standpoint.

I’ve already been through an awful experience once when I was in an interview for a wellknown digital business company in Spain where the interviewer got obsessed with bringing up a freemium solution I made for a big company, when I was the Product Manager at three years ago. The interviewer wanted to visit the website, and that gave me chills. She accessed it, and three years without any contact with the company the product website was a wreck, no maintenance, products were missing from the landing page, a disaster.

What was not disclosed is that I took the mission of a company that was born wrong, disorganised and with products that were facing lawsuits for plagiarism and recreated culture of brands. And that actually, made the company grow using design (this is a case for another day).

I was evaluated based on one of the smallest projects of my life, of an abandoned company from a big group and an outdated design. Of course every detail is important, even the small projects, but there are things out of the designers’ control, or even product managers.

So, is the designer responsible for that company failure? No I would say.

The day by day of helping businesses with Design

I used to say that my job was based on receiving at least 5 “NOs” per day, as a Product Manager of a group of companies that grew from a quite ancient activity: Accounting. Despite their predatory office culture and cruel no-fun policy at work, I could see a spark of desire to innovate.

But the reality of working in a company like this is that things move way too slow. And as easy as it looks to have a company phone, offices, lunch and all those things a big structure offers you, there are set backs that just take too long to overcome. Because the products and situations you are dealing with are not as simple as doing some design for Dribbble. The negotiations are tough, with high money values, people can get fired and the actions you take can either cost a lot or make a lot of money.

The assets of a designer in the modern world changed. With the new digital tools we are faster, more consistent and with better quality than ever. With that comes the responsibility of choosing how to use those resources and how to create good impact with your actions. A responsibility that requires a deeper knowledge about market, people, and a holistic vision for designers. But it doesn’t mean you have to be a business expert.

Since day one working as designers we have to learn how to take ownership of projects, do our best to validate our vision, and then apply it to make the product go through. But as long as there are factors contributing to success that you don’t have control of (you can call it luck), there are also factors contributing to failure.

Bad business moves, bad employee and resources management also make a great part in a project success or failure. Even the office cleaning have a great part on it. Actually that is one of the biggest mistakes some designers make when they acknowledge that they are great DESIGNERS, therefore they would be sucessful creating they’re own business or launching a product to the market.

There are a lot of other competences that are necessary to perform a product with excellence.

And trust me when i say this is not just about the designer, is about the nature of the human being and how everything works in the world. One can’t simply know everything or do everything in a company. We can see the effects today of a company that was individual centric (Apple) which had a huge lost when their CEO past away.

So when we ask, are designers responsible for the business success? I say in part. Just like any other step on the way of making a business real.

I would say a good Design guarantees your business success as much as a $ 3,000.00 dollars suit gets you a job. It depends on the rest of your performance.

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