What is design?
You’ve probably heard the word design tossed around a lot: graphic design, interior design, web design… But do you really know what it means?
In the simplest terms, design is problem-solving and communication.
There are two types of design that will be discussed throughout this article: visual design and experience design.
Visual design is how something looks or how well it communicates an aesthetic.
User experience (UX) design aims to maximize user satisfaction within a product or service. UX is a term often used in the digital realm, yet I’ll be applying these concepts to companies — not just software products. Essentially, how do customers ‘experience’ your company besides just the purchase?
Great businesses not only look good but provide a top-tier customer experience from start to finish. I’ll put these ideas into context to help you understand how and why design fuels some of the best businesses in the world.
Most people don’t consider design when starting a business. People focus on the revenue model, customer acquisition cost, customer retention rates, etc.
What if you could throw a catalyzer in the mix? What if your revenue could double, your customer acquisition cost could split in half and your customers were naturally recurring? On top of that, what if you could eclipse your competition?
That’s when design steps in.
Strong visual design ensures that you have a good looking brand you can champion, and, more importantly, that people can trust. People’s first impression of a business is directly correlated with its aesthetic appeal.
Take a look at the image below.
Odds are that you’d trust the right version of this logo more so than the left, regardless of whether or not you’re educated in design. It feels more planted, legitimate, and, consequently, trustworthy. That’s probably why Airbnb’s logo is the way it is, and this highlights why visual design is so important.
Having said that, it’s crucial to understand that design is contextual. As mentioned above, design consists of problem-solving and communication. Twenty years ago, people had different problems to solve and different ways to communicate, therefore designers didn’t have the same approach (or tools). Above all, it’s important to understand that today’s younger generations are extremely receptive to visual design.
It’s never too late to improve your visual design, but it’s harder if you don’t start with solid foundations.
Experience Design (XD/UX)
Visual design is only part of the equation. Creating a good experience for your customers whenever they interact with your company is too often an afterthought. When you hear UX nowadays, it’s often when discussing digital products — making it easy, fun and engaging for people to use your app. That’s a terrific plus, yet people ignore the context in which the product is placed. Think about how people purchase your product. Every step of the process should minimize friction and maximize convenience for the customers. Now, think about applying this concept of “convenience” to your whole business instead of just your product.
This UX mindset is what makes good companies great. Every aspect of your company, from the people you hire to the emails you write, should reflect and uphold that ‘experience’ mindset. At the end of the day, it all comes down to taking the extra step to satisfy and impress your audience: Magic Leap’s website is a good example of this.
That’s how you get organic, recurring revenue and create undeniable value in the face of customers.
Let’s take another example that most people can relate to, Apple. Apple has crafted the customer journey from A to Z in a way most companies dream of doing, from website to stores to software. They invest time into their customers’ experience, which ensures that you feel valued and come back for their next product. Plus, they pair this with brilliant visual design which elevates their business even more.
People don’t buy Apple’s products because they’re the fastest or latest tech. In fact, Samsung typically comes out with the same features many months earlier. Instead, people buy Apple products because they’re fashionable, both inside and out. Plus, the environment in which they’re presented in (the store, the packaging, the software, etc.) is equally well-thought-out.
So, why should you care about design?
- If your product or service is well-designed, then you can justify a higher price point. It’s the design, both physical and digital, that separates an iPhone from a Samsung Galaxy, and allows Apple to price their iPhone X at a frightening $1,000.
- A design-conscious company will gain more respect and a larger following. Companies like Nike make a business out of it — their shoes aren’t any better quality than competitors, yet their killer aesthetics are what convert first-time owners into Nike lovers. Plus, building a loyal fanbase means having an army of recurring customers and free brand ambassadors.
- Design is a differentiator. In a day and age when the barrier to market entry is absurdly low, design can be the difference between surpassing your competition or drowning in it.
- It’ll be easier to hire. If you’ve developed a strong brand for yourself (good aesthetics and a good experience), it’ll also be easier to hire talent, especially young people. People like bragging about companies they love, even more so if they work for them.
- You’ll make your marketing significantly easier. By having good design, it’ll be easier for your marketing team to communicate their message because the backbone is already there.
There are many differences between a good company and a great one.
You now know one of those differences. Make the best of it.
I didn’t mention the word ‘branding’ in this article. Branding has become a buzzword that I didn’t want to distract people with. However, both visual and experience design plays a huge role in defining a company’s brand.