Design is not that Important

John Maeda, former MIT professor and renown designer, sent shivers down the spines of designers everywhere in his recent Design in Tech Report when he made the bold statement

“…in reality, design is not that important.”

For years designers have been lobbying for, and getting, more authority and influence over how things get made. Overall that’s a good thing. The quality of most of the apps, services, and digital products many of use relay on has increased dramatically as a result. What Maeda is saying is the pendulum may be swinging too far. And he’s right.

“Maeda thinks that designers should focus on being good teammates rather than leaders. Worrying too much about whether design has enough influence over a product or a company distracts from the real vision: making great products that solve people’s problems.” – FastCompany

Bingo. Designers shouldn’t try to be in charge of the entire process. Those designers are @**holes.

Instead, designers should advocate for the decision that best benefits the customer AND the business. Without creating value for the customer a business won’t be able to sell their products and services. Without capturing some value for the business they won’t make any money. Either way, the business dies.

Instead of focusing on the aesthetics of the product, designers should be focused on the mutually beneficial outcomes the product makes possible. 

We should all know by now that design-led companies outperform their rivals. See this McKinsey study or my post from last week. And while that’s true, design-only companies are not the answer.

Who cares if the button is blue or green when the app doesn’t work? That beautiful UI doesn’t matter if the customer can’t figure out how to use it. On the flip side, ugly products erode customer confidence and trust. There is a balance in the middle. Things can be beautiful AND work well. Things can create value for customers and the business that created them. That, and that alone, should be the goal of a great designer, and the great business.

Full article on Fast Company