Design-led or drunk on design?

Not too long ago, this was gospel. A wave of Silicon Valley businesses and their protege embraced the idea that design thinking was the way of the future. Designers rejoiced as their rightful role in companies was recognized. Finally, people respected what design had to offer. At last, designers were leading the way.

Today, the conversation has evolved. Perhaps designers should take a “supporting role” rather than the lead. Maybe it’s more about teamwork than design-led. But don’t go so far as to say “design is not that important.” That’s treason.

Should companies center their business model around design? For more than a few years, we’ve been circling around this topic with no real conclusion or actionable result. Of course this is what we’re talking about. We’re designers.

We designers love to talk about ourselves. We’ve recycled the same ideas and hot-button “issues” for at least as long as I’ve been in the industry. Conversations around important matters will and must continue until change happens (think: global warming), but our design conversations seem more fueled by ego than need.

As designers, our role is to think creatively. To present unexpected ideas and thoughtful solutions to problems. Many of the debates we are having today are not unexpected, creative or thoughtful. The uproar around design’s place in a company is simply our all-too-human effort to feel important.

I believe in the power of design. I’ve seen it transform businesses, products and people. But there’s a lot more to a successful company than design. And there’s a lot more to great design than design itself.

Thank you for reading!

Want to learn more about me? I’m Tobias is a Designer & Maker + Co-Founder of Semplice, a portfolio platform for designers. Also host of the show NTMY — Previously Art Director & Design Lead at Spotify.

Tobias van Schneider

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Self-taught Designer & Maker. Un-Employed. Founder of Formerly Spotify — More About me:

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