Design in Business

Designing for Business

I feel like more than ever, there has been a lot of talk about the value of great design to companies and brands.  This probably has to do with the many recent retrospectives of Steve Jobs and the success of Apple.  They proved to the world that design can be a key competitive advantage.  But great design isn’t always just about the obvious visual elements.  We should be looking to all aspects of our business, including visual, to implement design beautifully.  My take on effective design is that it needs to be three things: consistent, approachable, and pleasing.  Some examples of areas in business that benefit from good design:

  • Team
  • Revenue model
  • Office space
  • Work culture
  • Service levels
  • Product: user-interface, material, color, touch, use, etc.
  • Dress
  • Employee benefits
  • Campaigns and public relation strategies
  • Job descriptions and expectations
  • Elevator pitch
  • The standards: logos, websites, identity, etc.

The difficult thing about design is that not everyone agrees on what’s good.  Unlike quantitative changes you can make to your business, design takes more faith.  That’s why I believe design must be led by the very top level managers of the companies.  We must set the tone by setting the example.  We must be designers.  Not trained artists, in the literal sense, but champions of our design ethos.  It is up to us to decide how we design our businesses in a way that is consistent, approachable, and pleasing.

You can expect to see upcoming posts that will dig deeper into specific examples of great and terrible (in my eyes) design in business.  If you have ideas or examples from your own experience that you’d like to share please email me:

I’ll leave you with this last thought which was my inspiration for beginning this series on design in business.  When was the last time you were creative?  You know, like painting with your fingers, or molding clay, designing a website, writing poetry, or decorating a room in your house?  For me it had been a long while.  I was caught up in deploying ideas rather than designing them.  This was until last month when my wife, Lauren, encouraged me to “craft” with her.  She likes to craft everything (think Etsy or ReadyMade).  So each night after we put our daughter down for bed we spent the evening being crafty.  There’s no plan on what to craft or what project to start, just be creative.  Right now I’m working on a toy for our two-year old daughter.  It’s a 4×4″ walnut box and I’m using a burning tool to etch images of animals on each pane.   Sounds cool, right?  Actually it looks like shit, but I’m trying.  Though that’s not the point.  Since I’ve started crafting with Lauren at night my mind has made a fundamental shift.  I am seeing opportunities for design in everything that I do including businesses and it has been enlightening.  So I encourage you to get involved with some form of visual design.  Sketch something, build something, paint something, or if you’re simply not a doer then go to a museum.  Get inspired.  Let’s make our space and lives a more beautiful place.

4 thoughts on “Designing for Business

  1. mark Graham

    Lon, great post. design thinking is often undervalued because it’s harder to measure in the classic ROI sense. I commend you at iclick for your design thinking.

  2. Tania

    Excellent idea. As a designer I get caught up in my design jobs, but it is still so important to be creative on your own time doing something that stretches your mind…

  3. Anonymous

    Creativity is best done without judgement or fear of failure. We have to close the door, we have to see only what belongs and discard the rest. Sometimes we forget that our greatest moments of creativity can be our most simple pleasures. Creativity is looking at the ordinary and seeing the extraordinary. Like moving to Colorado and creating a beautiful box for your daughter. As we remember to remember is it amazing what comes to the surface. Top management is often in a knee jerk place where such talents and skills have little room to flourish. But there is always that possibility.

  4. Dave G

    In my life, creativity is key.  Without it, things get really boring.  I travel everywhere with a sketchbook, or voice recorder so I can get those ideas down and remembered.  Many times what I scribble down or speak into the small mic don’t amount to anything, but it’s the process that’s important.
    You can’t discount ANY idea and the creative process should always be encouraged whether it’s at home crafting, like Lon, at the office or anywhere for that matter.
    You never know when that light bulb will go on, but it will go on more often if you are always engaging in the creative process.


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