Think, Sketch, Inspire… Make, Measure, Manage, Monetize.
All businesses use design in one capacity or another – some use it for advertisements, others on their website and they all use it for their brands. Designers have one great ability, amongst various, and that is to think in creative ways to solve unique problems – a characteristic and attribute most companies are looking for nowadays.
Businesses need leaders who can solve problems by using innovative methods and who are willing to step outside their comfort zone. Leaders who come up with big ideas, and are eager to spread and sell those ideas outside the company. The problem is that designers don’t always think like business people, and to mix design and business you need to bridge the gap. Business people need to understand the design process (Think, Sketch, Inspire, and Put Together) and designers need to understand the business goals (bottom lines, revenue, budgets, growth, and more.)
In my many years as a designer, I’ve seen numerous, very creative individuals lack the ability to sell their ideas and how they impact the business. These designers are not able to see the big picture and where their ideas can take them. One reason for this is thinking that a designer has nothing to do with business and should only be focused on creating “cool” things. Although, that has some truth to it, the market is very competitive and the more abilities a designer has the better chances he or she has to succeed. The best mix a designer can have is to blend good design with business thinking.
The first step a designer should make is to stop thinking a business mentality is going to ruin their creativity. On the contrary, it’s going to add value to their innovative approach at solving problems. To merge design and business there are a few things that I have found helpful:
- Make, Measure, Manage & Monetize – After the Design Process is complete (Think, Sketch, Inspire, and Put Together), take it to the next business step and Measure, Manage and Monetize your projects.
- Get Out of the Office – Attend networking events, explore new areas and talk to other professionals to understand the challenges of mixing design and business and how you can be an agent of change.
- Switch Your Role – Instead of being the lead designer on every project, switch roles and project manage an assignment to better understand the needs of the client and the roles of other members of your team.
Mixing design and business will always have its left-brain, right-brain challenges, but the first step is to recognize the challenges and start to implement process to better them. There are a lot of tools and resources out there that can help designers in business. A podcast I recently listened to that gives a good overview is “Design Thinking for Business” from The Profit Margin. A comment by Colin McKeown, Chairman of the NI Design Alliance, that made a lot of sense is that designers/creatives can unlock gems in companies and identify what the future should be for an organization. The most successful designers are always working in the future.