Why designers are your company’s secret weapon
Design-centric companies have a competitive advantage
There’s no question that design is becoming more important throughout our lives. Using something well-designed makes all the difference. Companies are starting to understand that design plays a key role in the success or failure of their products or services. With design becoming a key focus in decision-making and product development, designers must change to thrive in their important new roles within the team.
Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky has a passion for empowering creatives, and advises and invests in companies that combine intelligent design with cutting-edge technology. Through co-founding Behance, being involved with projects such as 99U, as well as businesses like Pinterest, Uber, Airtable, and Periscope, Belsky understands the crucial role design plays, and the responsibilities designers in those companies have.
“People don’t buy technologies or products – they buy the experience of that technology or product,” Belsky explains. Design plays an increasingly important role in the way a customer experiences a product. “The key to a compelling experience is great design. As brands realise this, they’re investing more in their design resources, hiring more creative talent and giving those designers more control over projects.”
When companies focus on design, it gives them a boost that competitors struggle to copy. “More and more businesses are recognising that design is a competitive advantage,” Belsky explains.
With the role of designers changing to help meet the needs of design-centric companies, designers are becoming more respected and influential – and hearing more from their colleagues. According to Belsky, “Designers have to accept that as their role has become more central, they will receive more feedback on their work. That can be difficult at times, but ultimately, it’s a sign of respect for their work. And, managed right, more perspectives make the final product better.”
More influence means more challenges
“Designers have a lot more influence and respect in companies today, but they also face some significant challenges,” Belsky says. “One is just the velocity of content they’re asked to produce. There are so many different platforms and devices and formats and campaigns that creatives are producing content at an overwhelming pace.”
Designers have to meet that increasing content velocity while also balancing the need to get feedback from a wider and more diverse group of stakeholders within the company. “Not only are designers working with each other to put together complicated projects, there are also many other colleagues – from marketing to legal to the C-suite – who want to review and comment on their work. Then designers have to pass their work on to the developers, who will bring it to reality,” Belsky explains.
Improving project management for designers
Now that so many different people are interested in content designers’ work, it can be difficult to navigate the various feedback loops efficiently. Companies like Adobe are helping designers harness different technologies to make collaboration and project management a little simpler.
Belsky explains exactly how Adobe is doing just that: “There are a lot of things that technology can do to support efficient collaboration and that’s a major focus for us at Adobe. We have to help free the collaboration process from long, confusing email chains and many different versions of a project with conflicting feedback. Our experience design program, Adobe XD, already offers this functionality, and we are working on integrating the same capabilities throughout the Creative Cloud suite.”
Embrace new technologies
Designers are also being asked to design for new mediums that may be outside of their normal scope, such as artificial intelligence, voice assistance, 3D, and augmented reality. This trend gives designers the chance to expand their skill sets.
Belsky is excited about the developments in design technology, and the ways designers can use all of the new solutions at their disposal, “I think designers should embrace new technologies for creative reasons. With new interfaces like voice and augmented reality, you can bring things to life you were never able to do before. It’s like having new colours in your palette – why wouldn’t you try them out and see what you could create with them? As a creative person, it just makes sense to try new things.”
Designers in more design-focused companies are able to explore these new technologies in ways they may not have been able to at other companies. This brings an exciting prospect for designers to try something new, but it can be intimidating as well.
Companies like Adobe, Belsky explains, are working to make this new technology more accessible without the steep learning curve. “I get that new technologies can be intimidating and people didn’t go into design to master complex technological systems. That’s why we believe we have a responsibility to make these new mediums as accessible as possible. For example, we’ve integrated voice prototyping into Adobe XD, so you can use a voice prompt in just the same way you’d include a tap or a swipe – designers have cool new options without having to learn a completely different way to design.”
Empathy is key
Belsky recently published a book called “The Messy Middle,” in which he discusses the often forgotten middle part of a new company or major project (the time between the start and when you begin to see steady successes). He explains that one of the most important qualities that can help companies navigate “the messy middle” is empathy, which Belsky says is “vitally important to stay connected with your customers and their problems and needs.”
Designers are well-prepared for the “messy middle” because empathy is one of their core skills. “Great design is all about empathy. Design today is not just about making things look good. It’s about understanding what your users are trying to accomplish and creating a product that will help them achieve these goals as efficiently as possible. That requires you to talk with customers and really understand their perspectives. That kind of understanding helps provide a direction in the darkness of the messy middle.”
Design and deliver amazing customer experiences with Adobe Creative Cloud for teams—the plan made for businesses. Get started: https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/business/teams/business-features.html.