Products are not only judged on what they do, they’re judged on how they do it. The experience that someone has when using your product is largely what they remember. These experiences are not forgotten quickly and are shared stories that spread through networks of people as their either praise or throw punches at your product.

Today, consumers expect great experiences, and they really are learning to spot the difference between a good and bad experience. It’s not enough to just fulfill a need or solve a problem. You have to do it in a way that creates an experience. In the past, we’ve had a strong focus on creating great technology. But, unless the great technology is woven into a thoughtful user experience, chances are that it will never be accessible to a consumer.

How do we ensure that experience is part of the fabric of our products and process? I believe this can only happen when we consciously choose to embed design into our culture from the very beginning.

In his article Silicon Valley’s New Secret Weapon: Designers Who Found Startups Enrique Allen argues that in order to have a culture of design, you shouldn’t spend time training people who to think like designers, but instead, have a designer in your founding group. In doing so, you set your team up to embrace design thinking and innovation.

Allen touches on a concept that I’m very passionate about – that there’s a fundamental lack of understanding about the value of design and designers themselves. Too much focus is placed on the deliverable of design and not enough on the process to get there. In his article, he writes:

Now, more than ever, we face complex problems that designer founders are well-equipped to solve. Everyone in a company should have empathy and practice design regardless of their title. Design can no longer be just be an outsourced add-on, limited to putting “lipstick on a pig.” Tech moves too fast for such short-sighted design thinking; it won’t be a lasting advantage.

Many more thoughts on this, but I think the fundamental challenge is that we need to continue to evangelize the value of design and continue to create environments where designers can exercise the full range of their skill sets.

PS. Check out Designer Founders is Enrique Allen’s book on founders who make tech start-ups.

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