Stop Designing Business Cards

And Start Designing Businesses

What is the purpose of design?

This question has been debated across countless blogs, articles, and interviews for the past few decades. Some argue the value of design using art as a starting point. Others consider it to be a more of a science, utilizing a “scientific” method.

Let me make things a little easier.

As a designer in today’s world, your goal is to solve business-related problems using design-related solutions.

Assuming this definition is true, it inevitably requires an understanding of the business development process in order to apply our design solutions.

According to Josh Kaufman, author of “The Personal MBA,” this process can be broken down into five steps:

  • Value Creation
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Value Delivery
  • Finance

Initially, it’s easy to assume that design only comes into play during the Marketing step. After all, this is where branding, packaging, and other traditional categories of design have been emphasized in the past. This may have been true during the 1920's, but in today’s world, design begins as soon as you start creating value.

In this first step of business development, value can take shape in a number of ways, including products, services, shared resources, subscriptions, resales, leases, agencies, audiences, loans, options, insurance, or capital.

What do all of these things have in common?

Each form of value needs to be validated with customers before it can scale into a sustainable business.

The quickest way to accomplish this is by designing a prototype to test with real people. If you are a designer in any discipline and unsure of what a prototype is, pause reading this article and read Kaufman’s explanation here.

Now that we’re all up to speed, you can imagine the value behind prototyping a potential business offering before wasting time, money, and effort.

A prototype forces an idea into reality. It takes an abstract concept and creates a test that gives immediate, tangible feedback. Overtime, this prototype grows the initial idea into an actual business with customers.

As a designer, if you are looking for the opportunity to evolve as a professional and bridge the gap between design and business, you need to start at the beginning with value creation.

Otherwise, I’m sure there are plenty business people who need business cards for their next networking event.


Are you focused on taking the next step as a designer? How are you currently bridging the gap between design and business? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter at @williamfrazr.

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