So it looks like The Designer Fund, a VC fund that specifically invests in Startup companies that have designers as founders is starting to gain traction. It seems that suddenly everyone seems to have an opinion on the premium placed on designers.

Brace yourselves! I’m going to join the fray with my 2 cents worth simply because I find that many people seem to miss what the Designer Fund is extolling. I would even dare say that even the Designer Fund itself seems to miss something in the communications of their objectives.

But before we go on check out some of the current sentiments on this hot topic, researched and organized for you in chronological order:

1) The Designer Fund in all its glory! A brag list of all the exciting and successful companies that have a designer(s) as one of the founders.

2) Yongfook rants, (in respond to this brag list) in his post “Design is Horseshit!“, on how the premium set on designers is overblown and there is a lot more to running a start up than being a designer. Yongfook seems to lean towards the view that design is about creating value through making things beautiful.

3) Joshua Porter calls out YongFook in his post “Design is not Horsepoop“. Joshua’s take is that design is more than skin deep, it’s a process and a mindset. He quotes Steve Jobs saying, “Design is how it works.”

4) Finally, a bunch of us were having a conversation on Twitter today on the seemingly narrow view of design on this website: “Startups, This is how Design Works“.

You see, it is not about how you define design, but how wide (or narrow) you consider the scope of design to be. This is the same problem many people have with the whole Design Thinking shindig. Take a look at the following graphic and you’ll know what I mean.


Click on the Image for a Bigger View.

It’s one of the situations where people are both wrong and right at the same time. We are all really talking about the same thing. It’s all design. From making things look good or easy to use, to creating the right experience, to identifying opportunities for market grown through user insights etc., we are all talking about the same thing.

Now, lets go back to the Designer Fund’s point of view, and look at what they mean where they say that Designers should be part of a Startup’s founding team. What they are trying to say is no different to what some of us (go Rita-Sue!) have been saying for years, and that is we need to get a Designer in the boardroom.

When you have designers (skilled in the “Design as a Strategic Activity” bit) in the boardroom or coffee shop table (where most Startups find themselves), design becomes central to the business strategy and decision making process at the highest level. So the Design Fund believes that having Designers as founders will lead to a design driven Startup that will have a high change to build something meaningful, useful, and awesome!

But to start building, you will need everything to come together in the right way, and at this stage design switches to design implementation mode. Therefore, in reality you will need both parts of Design (and in between) as outlined in my graphic above. Any argument, for or against the Designer Fund, which only considers one part of this equation is fundamentally wrong.

Guy Kawasaki, at a Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Lecture Series at Stamford, shares insights on why start-up businesses should tell a story and plant many seeds. I believe that any company (not just start-ups) interested in getting their products (or services) out there or wanting making a difference will find his few words of wisdom very useful. You will find this very applicable in a Design Thinking context as well. Enjoy!

If you can’t see the video please click here to view it on Design Sojourn.

Some time ago (July 14, 2009 to be exact) I wrote an article encouraging designers to walk the entrepreneurial path on their own by bringing some of their own creations to the market. My article “Sometimes Designers need to Walk the Path on Their Own” encouraged design entrepreneurship simply because of the learning experience designers can get. Not only that, a designer should have the DNA to be an entrepreneur. It is really only about changing the mindset.

So I was presently surprised to see an interview where Scott Wilson, of Tik Tok Kickstarter fame, explains his thoughts on why Designers should be Entrepreneurs. However I disagree with the99percent when they labeled him as a “new breed of designer/entrepreneurs”. I’m sure you would agree with me that design entrepreneurship is something that many designers have been practicing for quite sometime now.

Anyways here is the quote:

Do you think all designers should be entrepreneurs? Or is that just your particular makeup?
I find it slightly odd that all designers aren’t like that, because you’re just so curious. For me, I have such a hunger to learn, to try new things, and to connect the dots. I love seeing all kinds of things from medical to industrial to whatever, and then going, “Oh that’s interesting, and how is that relevant to this thing over here that’s in a completely different sector or category.”

I think there’s a difference between a designer who just wants to go to his computer and design things in a vacuum or design things to a brief and not maybe be challenged too much, and a designer that can actually see the connections and challenge the brief and push back and create something that’s disruptive to what’s in the market right now.

Steve Jobs at Apple, Mark Parker at Nike – who I was fortunate enough to work with for two years – those guys are big-picture designers. They’re right-brain, they connect the dots. I think it’s really important to train that part of how you see things as a designer.

There are a lot of people out there who have more skill than I do, who are more creative, maybe more open-minded, but one of the things that I do is I see the connections and I see the opportunities and I can visualize them.

So I agree with Scott, designers have the DNA to be entrepreneurs. It is about curiosity, big picture thinking, and the ability to connect the dots. I would also like to add to his list the ability to wear many hats, working with, and empathizing with other people. Check out the full interview at the99percent for other cool anecdotes such as “Do what you think is Right and Apologize Later”. Enjoy!

The ever-witty Mike Monteiro, famous for his potty mouth, shared at a recent San Francisco Creative Mornings talk, the ups and downs of running a design business. For example, dealing with problems such as getting clients to pay up, getting comfortable with contracts and working with lawyers.

Filled with his usual F-Bomb expletives, this video is not really safe for work unless behind a pair of headphones. Nevertheless it is good to watch and worth spending that 39 mins or so, of your time. You can find a much tamer written version at his Mule Design Blog.

Via: Swiss Miss

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