NO Designer Will Tell Your Business This (The REAL Business Value of Design)

When I first got into design I was obsessed with tooling: fonts, colour books, the history, the heroes spouting on about how it has to be.

Some great principles. Some poorly thought out, and now over time, not even even questioned.

The customer wants to think of design as a shiny, well put together item that you lust for. Buying based on hopes and dreams…or fear, of missing out.

Design as a practice is messy.

Sold as a bullshit process to remain a repeatable entity tied to a design firm. Which in turn doesn’t really do too much to the top line of any firm. Besides any bullshit story tied to a story is a phony designer who never learnt how to sell.

In day to day business, the value of design is 4 parts:

  1. Diagnosis
  2. Prescription
  3. Implementation
  4. Reapplication

That same order represents the value of each step. Dropping as you go down to each step. So it makes sense that a better diagnosis should reap you more $$$ than a better reapplication (or redesign) as a business owner.

Part 1 – Diagnosis

You might know Diagnosis as a what you do when you see doctor about an ache or pain, cold or flu. This is the same mechanism in a design process.

A business in 2019 make a lot of money online by innovating against their competitors.

What happens when the innovation dries up and hits a wall.

Is it a game to be lost entirely?

Would one walk away and sell up? Or design a new system to innovate from where we left off?

I’d innovate again, there are costs, though what is the cost of failing all together?

The diagnosis can look like many things, it can be a hunch, and I say everything is a certain level of a hunch. Only then can we be open to calling everything a test.

Design is more than a test though. We have start with the ache or pain.

Design is not a band-aid. Yet we can have solutions that look like one.

Design is not art, and it should always have an outcome.

Part 2 – Prescription

Knowing the problem is half the battle.

Senior management want to prescribe the problem before it hits the implementation team.

When I have it my way, no one makes it into the implementation room without Diagnosis + Prescription.

What does impactful design look like to our early stage diagnosis?

We have to know what impact and effort looks like to every problem raised in diagnosis to even start thinking prescription.

Sticky notes and design thinking gets us there.

We have to leave our egos at the door and move forward with measuring the impact and effort of ideas based our current situation.

It can look like many things, though design sprints highlight the way.

I’ve managed to pull parts out of design sprints to build my ‘just enough research’ approach to moving into implementation faster. Though government, ASX200 businesses want to do the 5-whole days and that’s fine, the 5-day sprints work incredibly well for physical products being tested.

What does the impact and effort look like of the idea you want to implement?

Part 3 – Implementation

The part where you thought you’d have all the fun and get your hands dirty.

This is the big misconception of what design actually is.

The implementation has significant value, though it’s inherently linked to diagnosis and prescription because it steers the strategy of what should be an automatically driven vehicle.

Without that rational strategy you’re not driving a user to a goal. You’re getting in drunk and playing, making the designer an artist.

Design means it has a clear outcome. Art doesn’t, and value of art is in it’s mystery.

You can call them both communication tools, though art needs explanation, design shouldn’t.

“what about creative direction Reed?”

That’s a layer of style. A button with gradient colours, a typeface that is unique, that’s a style layer, it’s moving into brand territory.

Brand is still valuable (attached with the mystery of art AND marketing) though it needs functioning user experience attached.

A recent Commonwealth Bank billboard ad had Yellow text on a white background to communicate it’s punchline.Which missed the mark.

This is removing the clear function the business set out for. To communicate a clear goal.

It is structured like an artist. Though fails to communicate effective design for a user moving at 100km/hr.

In your day to day, tell me what you think is a failing design implementation.

Part 4 – Reapplication

Working in agile we need to reimagine failing parts of a businesses tools and products to maintain revenue targets.

Sure those numbers can be arbitrary figures. Though large companies need to keep eyes on the income reports to maintain whatever arbitrary figures they have for whatever growth reason they might have.

Ambitious business owners need to look at the way they capture value or create value in any market, the costs that go into diagnosis and prescription can be tedious and intangible, but with reapplication we can look directly at the tangible and pivot.

What’s working, what isn’t?

Are we measuring the right metrics to start with?

It starts with innovation in any market.

Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.

Peter Drucker

How do we innovate from where we are?

We do Innovation Ideation (formally known as ux research).

The goal is to ship changes with modern tooling and processes: design sprints, agile methodologies, lean startups principles and hacking growth.

Reapplication is my wheelhouse, it’s the least valuable as a whole of the design process. Though easiest to capture value in the market for stay-ups.

And how do I do it? By business innovation. Pulling out hail mary’s from the current tech stack to utilise failings the business has overlooked.

Australia of all countries needs reapplication at the moment of writing. It’s the first place to start. Which is why an audit is crucial.


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