Thoughtful Design Makes a Difference

As a person who designs and builds things that allow people who use computers solve their problems — I frequently have to answer questions about why I approach the work that I do in the way that I do. At the core, it’s because I think that designing things well makes a noticeable difference in our environments, our attentiveness and most importantly—our feelings and moods.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking as a term may be a bit of a buzzword these days, but the thought process behind it dates back to Herbert A. Simon’s 1969 book The Sciences of the Artificial. A human-centered, solution based approach to design is to start with goals and requirements and create within those specified guidelines.

With this problem solving approach we, as designers, define a as many requirements up front as possible. We analyze and synthesize what the would-be goals are for the people who are meant to interact with the end product and determine what the business goals are. Sometimes it may take a few discovery iterations to truly get to the absolute goals. But, when they are clearly spelled out and guidelines are put in place — design thinking methodologies really make a difference.

Among many great designers and technologists in the world today, I think the company IDEO has made some impressive strides in implementing some of these processes to facilitate innovation. If you are unfamiliar with them, look them up.

Image taken from IDEO:

Impact on Human Behavior

Well thought out design can change the way people feel and interact with your business, your environment or ultimately — you. It devises courses of action to pivot existing situations into more preferred ones.

Often times, companies create a product or service with the intention of facilitating desirable behaviors and create undesirable ones unintentionally. A good example would be the social platform, Reddit. At it’s core, the platform is meant to be a free-speech and news voting platform. In theory, this is awesome because the news that most people care about is at the top where more people can find it. In my opinion, where it falls short is that because it’s loosely moderated, the community is subject to bullying and very negative conversations around certain topics with little-to-no repercussions.

If that platform, however, were to have set forth ground rules and guided interactions from the get go and enforced them on an as-needed basis, that behavior could have been curbed. Would it have become as popular?

Who knows.

What we do know is that studying patterns and finding similarities can help define and develop ideas and platforms for which the people interacting are guided in the way that the platform means to direct them. Then using design philosophies we translate those findings into a tangible product, experience or platform.

Value for Business

Design is a key element in a brand’s reputation. It’s an investment in that brand’s future and the ability to accurately portray it’s innovative thinking, brand positioning and the way people communicate with each other.

Successful businesses include design as an integral part of business strategy from the outset. The reason is simple — having design integrated with the business goals at an early stage can save money and result in a better experience for your customers. False economy is real and you should try to avoid it at all costs.

“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the costs of bad design.” — Ralf Speth CEO, Jaguar

When research-based design is integral to a company’s innovation and positioning, it shapes ideas to become practical and attractive propositions for customers. This in turn gives the organization a happier customers and ultimately a higher return on investment.

One of my favorite examples of not only great design, but also great design positioning, is the talk by Simon Sinek, “How great leaders inspire action”. In that talk which can be found on TED Talk, he refers to his analogy, The Golden Circle, as a way that thought leaders and successful people speak about their brand. He uses a comparison between two technology juggernauts, Apple and Dell. Where, both of them essentially have well designed products — the gist of that segment is that Apple speaks about themselves from an inward-out standpoint “we’re technology enthusiasts” and Dell speaks about themselves outward-in “we have nice products”.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” — Simon Sinek

I personally think that Apple has better design standards in their products and in their positioning too and that it’s one of the main reasons they are able to sell very similar products at a much higher price point.

Trust That It Works

In the end it’s about trust. The people interacting with you and your brand/product/company/etc want to trust that you will deliver and fulfill their needs and motivations. Your business will see that your customers believe in your ideas and innovations and feel comfortable using your services.