Design is the ultimate differentiator

Jerome de Lafargue
May 3, 2017 · 3 min read

Nike. Slack. Google Ventures. These three entities probably sound completely unrelated. In fact, they have one thing in common: they are industry leaders. But there is something else they share. They all believe design really matters. Not in the traditional sense of graphic design, but in the holistic sense: they believe in carefully crafting the end-to-end experience of their customers. Coincidence? No. First-class design is how they compete.

Fortune 500 companies compete with design

Design Value Index

Data tells us that these investments will pay off. In 2015, the US think tank DMI created a theoretical Design Value Index which revealed that design-conscious organisations such as Apple, Nike and Starbucks outperformed the S&P 500 by 219% over a 10-year period.

Startups compete with design

But perhaps a lesser known story is the one of the cloud infrastructure startup DigitalOcean, who became the fastest growing cloud company in the world by focusing on what their competitors weren’t doing: delivering a great user experience.

DigitalOcean user interface: simple and inviting

Investors compete with design

Cumulative funding of design-led startups

Competing with design is a battle-tested strategy, but that doesn’t make it an easy one. Design thinking requires a focused, thoughtful approach. If you’re a startup, it means investing in it from the start and fostering a design-conscious culture. If you’re a large company, it involves deploying significant resources and building systems to manage design at scale. If you’re an investor, you need to become a design expert, or have one on your team. But in every case, done right, design is the ultimate differentiator.


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Jerome de Lafargue

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Co-founder at, beautifully simple design system documentation synced with design and code! Follow me on Twitter @getjerome 🎨


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