Don't Skimp on Design


design should never compromise functionality, nor should functionality ever compromise design

Design is something that start ups tend to miss, forget about, or pay little attention to, and this is especially true for those with an engineering background.

Engineers tend to think that as long as it’s functional, and works right, it will appeal to the masses, but these engineers forget that the majority of the population are not engineers and in fact just general folk, and if your product targets the masses, one of the best pieces of advice we can offer is DON’T SKIMP ON THE DESIGN.

Remember the Volvo’s from the 80’s and 90’s? Great cars on the inside, but ugly, real ugly. Then comes Ford, buys the car division, redesigns the body and sales go through the roof, the cars, are now not only safe but cool.

Old example? Look at Android and iPhone OS. Android is open, there are no limits on what you can, can’t do, there is no parent company that strictly dictates what you can put on an Android phone, it’s open. Yet the sales are meager in comparison to the iPhone. Why? Well, it’s cool, the design is sleek and well thought out. Apple more so than any other company is known for the quality of its industrial design, and it shows, just look at the bottom line even during this recession. Now look at Compaq. Who?

Are you starting to see the point?

But thing is as a start up you don’t have the resources to splurge on IDEO, or hire some of the best industrial designers in the industry. Problem? Not really.

If you’re by a major metropolitan area chances are there’s a school which exclusively teaches design, or at least has faculty or a programme that deal with it. Your best bet is to contact them, explain what you’re looking for and see if you can’t involve students in a project, or even hire one as an intern. When it comes to design most of these students will be light years ahead of you and your engineers, they’ll be overjoyed at the possibility of getting some real world experience, and best of all, they’ll make your product attractive to the wider community.

A few things to note.

FlowerBall1. Some designers may go overboard and make it the best looking whatever it is, but completely non functional. Stay away from these and ask to see previous projects.

2. As an engineer, you’ll most likely describe what it is the product does in a way that the designer won’t understand. For this we recommend looking over our older post on value propositions and elevator pitches. Good communication is key.

3. Let the designer do what they’re good at, design. You’re there to get the business going, not micro manage.

4. And remember, design should never compromise functionality, nor should functionality ever compromise design.

And if you’re looking for a design school near you – just click here.


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