Is Design a good method for problem solving?

Redefining the perception of design.

In the past 20 years, the field of Design has grown in scope and ambition. Designers aren’t just preoccupied with the visual and material world. They’re designing the flow of information, they’re designing retail, web experiences and solutions to ecological problems like poverty. They’re helping to shape the identity of organizations from the ground up. — Debbie Millman, President Design Group at Sterling Brands

How would you define “Design” as a business function?

Design solves problems as part of its process to create new useful products, places, communications, or experiences, while encouraging collective change. Design is often seen as only the visual aspects of a product or service, but in reality Design can be utilized in every facet of an idea and culture, as well as the process of finding solutions for business problems.

Where does Design fit into technology?

Design is the language which we use to communicate the relationship between technology and art. This relationship has always been closely tied together throughout history with the word “technology” originating from the Greek word “art”. Art and design help make technology accessible and understandable to the user.

What is technology in relationship to art…that all important word; empathy, which grounds all of design, all of art…empathy is not about technology, it’s about people. — John Maeda, Design Partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers

How does Design advance technology?

Design can be a few different things, but its main focus is to always solve a problem; not always tied to the visual or material. Design is a tool to diagnose problems within ideas, entrepreneurs and young companies. As a tool, Design can take a cluttered user experience and find a deeper underlying issue highlighting the confusion of a company’s core goal. Design can also be the rocket fuel for which ideas and solutions are propelled to iterate while maintaining a close eye on metrics that affect the outcome. Design can help you find strategic insights as to where it can have the most impact on business. Finally, Design can help bring a wider viewpoint beyond aesthetics and into global economics and usage.

Design is helping people make sense of the world. — Peter Bradford, Designer at AGI

What role does Design play beyond technology?

Design isn’t just a process of solving problems for products and services. It also plays an important role in how a business is established by defining its culture, agility and story. With our ever increasingly complex world, designers by nature or through experience can use their perceptual and observational skills to navigate change, risk and analytics.

Designers also play an important role in the relationship between companies and users. They help make sense of the world through physical (traditional), cognitive (human-computer interface), and organizational (institutions) design. Designers are well equipped to take large and complex ideas, break them down into very simple problems that can be solved in sequence, moving iterations quicker and helping users make sense of it all.

When companies needed to develop procedural discipline, it turned to Operations as a guide. When companies needed to attract and retain customers, Marketing led the way. When companies needed to learn how to scale, Finance provided the tools and perspective. Now that the companies need agility and imagination, in addition to analytics, we believe it’s time to turn to Design as a model of leadership. — Maria Guidice, Director of Product Design at Facebook and CEO/Founder of Hot Studio, from the book Rise of the DEO

How are design-led startups perceived?

The real question is, are design-led startups more likely to be funded and succeed?

Traditionally startups have been led by two technologists, one business associate and a part-time designer. Now you find situations where you have two designers, one technologist and a part-time business associate leading a startup. This change is mostly due to companies like but not limited to AirBNB, Instagram, Pinterest, Kick Starter and Tumblr. What these companies have in common is they’re founded and led by designers, along with making the commitment to put Design at the center point of everything they do. These design-led companies have been able to rethink technologies and new experiences that have made them the driving force of innovation.

Venture capital firms are also changing how Design is perceived in technology. From VC firms looking for designer led startups to designers becoming partners in VC firms. You don’t have to look far for these examples. Google Ventures has 5 Design Partners, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers has John Maeda and Khosla Ventures now has Irene Au. These designers are helping VCs make better decisions with their investments. Fueling the iteration process of young companies and using design as a tool to spot where there may be problems in their investments.

With technology, more is always better. But more no longer governs how we feel. Design is needed to find the balance between more and less…Design has been ever present in our world and designers know how to use that. Technology has now balanced out where designers can now have a bigger role in it. — John Maeda, Design Partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers

What role do creative firms have in all this?

The startup landscape is changing and designers are openly leading the charge. With this idea, how can creative agencies like design and marketing firms play a role in the ever growing startup world? Are they some of the best equipped organizations to drive innovation? Is there a way for them to get involved in the investment process of startups? Can creative firms form a new kind of startup? Most of these questions remain unanswered, but in my opinion, I believe that creative firms hold all the right ingredients to drive change and the right resources to solve problems. Their company culture cultivates innovation and creativity, equipping their CEOs to lead with not just experience, but with a model of leadership.