Categories
design startups

How to Sell Design

We all know design is important but if your a designer trying to grow your design business, or you’re an entrepreneur trying to buy design services, you could be selling yourself short.

We all know that design is a key product differentiator:

  • Well designed products and software can be sold for a premium.
  • Products that are designed to be easy to use have fewer customer support issues and higher satisfaction.

But if your a designer trying to sell the value of your designs you may often hear that design is too expensive or that things like research seem unnecessary steps.

Designers and entrepreneurs aren’t always speaking the same language. While we know design is valuable, designers often have a hard time explaining or selling this value.

Three key principals:

#1 – Don’t Sell Design


When I first started my business I would try to sell the value of design. The problem with this is that no one wants to buy design. They don’t. You don’t want to buy the design for an iPhone, you want the iPhone. Most people don’t separate the value of design from the thing itself.

We were designing products, websites and mobile apps and similarly, the founder and entrepreneurs didn’t want the design of an app or a website they wanted the outcome, the result.

Design is just one of the ingredients that goes into building a product, but typically the person buying it is interested in the product, not the ingredients.

And as an entrepreneur, try to be specific about the results you’re looking for. Results can be based on metrics such as conversion, retention, bounce rate… Or it can be based on aesthetic qualities: professional, friendly, quirky, stark, colorful…

  • Do you want something easy to use?
  • Do you want it to look friendly or attractive?
  • Do you want thoughtful designs for the setup experience, the error experience or more.

Often times design isn’t just what happens on the screen, sometimes it’s the decisions of the business itself.

#2 – Don’t sell the design as a phase.

It’s common for designers to propose the incorporation of design as a discrete step in a larger project. Try not to do this.

Design work tends to happen through the entire continuum of a product life-cycle so if you propose a discrete phase you’re doing a disservice to yourself and your customers. If design issues can be introduced late in a product life cycle they can also be corrected. By treating design as a continuum you’re less likely to be without a designer when you need one.

Secondly, phased design means your designers will have less or sometimes no overlap with your engineering team. Great products are the combination of design and engineering and it’s only through shared time that hard problems get solved. If you sell your design as a phase you’re creating a scenario where it’s easy to cut or trim the phase and end up with something functional but not usable.

#3 – Great Design is about solving business problems

When showing your work, it’s about outcomes and benefits more than the pixels on the screen. You’re selling yourself and your team. You’re building trust and at the end of the day you’re selling your ability to deliver on specific business results.

Your character, charisma and ultimately your confidence are key to solving a design problem.

The ways things look and feel are important but put as much or more emphasis on your ability to drive business metrics.

Categories
innovation

Half Ideas

A half idea is sometimes better than a full one.

For many years I’ve been saying that I have half ideas. Not a full-idea or a partial thought but just half an idea. I use this expression to put ideas out into the world. I give myself permission to express ideas in their earliest stages. Ideas start out fragile, and vulnerable and this is when they are most impacted by feedback, criticism, and iteration.

Half ideas are also the most valuable because many people don’t bother to talk about them. Innovative ideas sound crazy and complete ideas seem obvious. You need the freedom to say the outlandish if you want to be innovative.

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

Albert Einstein

Ideas need space to breathe and even the ideas that sound absurd should be explored. I think it’s better to get ideas out in the open and to get the input and feedback rather than stay silent and let the idea stay a thought. By saying things out loud, even with half an idea, I’m giving myself the freedom to put things out there that are still in rough form.

Many companies and organizations punish new ideas, they further create corporate incentives to keep the status quo and not challenge dogma. That may be ok for some but it shouldn’t be ok for anyone trying to innovate.

“Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs

I’m starting this blog/ video series to put my half-ideas out into the world and explore thoughts on technology, design, product, and innovation. The only thing I ask is that you help flesh out my half-ideas with your own.

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