Introducing the Billion Dollar Designers

There’s no question about it, design has become an integral part of our day to day lives.

Our screen time is on the rise and every app we use, email we open and website we visit has been designed by someone. Everyone’s now used to updating their phone and apps to make sure their experience is constantly improved. The internet of things is being talked about all the time and new digital products and platforms are being built every day.

This spawns an increased demand for digital designers and strategists to be involved from the birth of these inventions, which will only increase in the years to come.


The designer’s role has adapted to this change by taking on a more holistic view, taking into consideration not only the tools and methods in completing a design but the challenge as a whole. Smart designers consider the user, global trends, competitive landscape and gaps in the market to provide solutions.

This has created the perfect platform for designers (particularly digital designers) to move into tech, with an increasing number of multi-million and billion dollar businesses founded by designers.

Image credit: Behance


A few months ago, KPCB’s 2015 Design in Tech report identified 27 startups founded by designers that had been bought by businesses such as Google, Facebook, Adobe, LinkedIn, Dropbox and Yahoo since 2010.

“The smartphone revolution brought design’s value into the foreground,” said Maeda’s report. “We want to do in our palm, while walking, what we used to do on a big screen while sitting down at a desk. The interaction design challenges presented by that shift are huge,” it said.

Just some of the billion dollar startups founded by designers are:



Some of the top global companies have built their companies and ideas around the idea of creativity and empathy. Having a ‘people-centric organisation’ has helped the success of some of these leading global companies including Airbnb, Uber and Behance. These companies have been founded by designers who have addressed very simple problems in various fields which have created worldwide change.

In a past article published on Dezeen Magazine, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky spoke to them about how Airbnb grew from just a couple of mates having a simple idea of being able to rent someone’s home whilst you were travelling without the need to book a hotel, at hotel prices. “When we came to Silicon Valley, no one even wanted to invest in Airbnb,” he says. “One of the reasons was they thought the idea was crazy… But the other reason is that they didn’t think a designer could build and run a company.” Chesky said.

Image credit: Airbnb

Airbnb’s philosophy is ‘everything is design driven’ and it really pinpoints where we are in design today. Designers aren’t simply meeting with clients and answering multi-page briefs. We’re looking at the world around us and considering the bigger picture, creating not just solutions to problems but creating new ideas to answer the changing nature of our world.

Image credit: uber


With these fast developments in technologies, designers and businesses have had to adapt and change the way they operate. Co-founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp of Uber saw the need for this change, developing the world’s most successful start up. Studying computer engineering, the two saw a gap in the transport market, which is where the idea of an on-demand car service available via a mobile application was invented. Uber is now reportedly worth $51 billion as of July 2015 and is operating in 58 countries and over 300 cities.

Uber considers themselves a logistics service and has currently been piloting a delivery service in some cities in the United States involving businesses such as Rent The Runway, Birchbox and Baublebar. This in itself brings in a whole range of new design challenges for the business.

So what does that mean for designers? In this technologically advanced age, designers are encouraged to continue to upskill and develop new skills in order to stay relevant. Designers can not only look at design aesthetics but factors such as human behaviour and user experience, economics and environmental design to create things with purpose.

Great design should be able to provide meaning, content and attraction to cultivate a valuable end solution. This method should be applied to start-ups, products we use and even down to the apps we log in.

Join Australia’s leading Industry Advisors with our Diploma of Graphic Design or Diploma of Website Development starting next Monday 26 October.

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