Designer. Disruptor. Startup Mentor. Digital Innovator.

Why Design Matters

"Four Ways to Build Out an Effective Board of Directors" ibuildcompanies.com by Jeanne Heydecker

If you’re a product company, it’s endemic in the product. If you’re a service company, it’s the entire customer experience. I’ve worked at several startups that didn’t have a product or service yet, ready to sell, but needed to prime the market for their (hopefully) eventual launch. Some of these companies went spectacularly down in flames, while others merged with similar companies, or were bought outright.

I have found that bad design can really hurt your ability to generate revenue, acquire funding, and hire the right people. Bad design indicates a lack of professionalism and focus on your customers.


Your logo and everything that touches a potential client or existing customer should showcase the value you provide. A poorly made logo, a web site that does not address visitors’ needs, poorly designed sales literature filled with typos and cheap paper will reflect poorly on your company. Everything that a customer or potential customers sees should be consistent in their colorways, fonts, imagery styles, and content.

Online User Experience

Whatever social media touch points and your web site are vital to attracting new customers and creating more revenue. Some companies may not want to sell online and that’s perfectly fine. What matters is how you present yourself across these online opportunities, through well written content, well designed graphics and professionally looking videos will greatly enhance the user experience with your company.

Some things to look out for is that most people don’t want to register if they are just browsing; that’s like asking someone to marry you on the first date. When they are ready for the next step, have the right interface to make this simple to complete. That may be during the check out process or when subscribing to your emails. This is a huge pet peeve for me because when I start getting multiple emails a day notifying me of sales or new products available, I simply hit the SPAM button to get rid of them. That’s why most email companies you work with like opt-in, and double opt-in since spamming prospects can get you blacklisted and blocked from continuing your email campaigns.

Online chat bots are another issue. AI isn’t ready for all client requests, so there should at least be a human back up. Also, if you decide to do this, you need human chat support 24/7. I can’t tell you how much shopping happens late at night when your office is usually closed. You will lose out on sales because of this. I know I’ve left sites with a full cart ready to checkout but I needed to ask one question, for example, maybe I needed dimensions on a piece of furniture, or I needed to know the sunlight requirements for a particular plant. Leaving people to guess means users leaving their carts and going elsewhere. Test your web site design. You can get 98% of your issues by testing seven different target people.

Social Media can be both a boon and a burden, if you don’t use it wisely and in keeping with your brand. Design user experiences that make people want to share. That could be, for example, a baker videotaping the process of making their baguettes, or a yarn company that lets followers upload their finished work to their social media sites. You might be able to offer frames to go around their work, maybe create an album or a pin board for the best work. Design is negligible in social media since there are significant restrictions on what can be uploaded based on what social media sites you are using. Find the ones where your core market hangs out and design ways to create delight with your customers and prospects. Be sure sure to stay on brand with all written content. A small startup-focused law firm in Silicon Valley focused on copyright infringement and intellectual property law would have a very different voice than a global law firm serving several different practice areas.

Off-line Design

What does your office look like? Would you embarrassed to have clients visit you? Does the space work well for your employees? Painting walls with a fresh coat of paint in your brand colours can be a start. Designing a well functioning office space that lets employees meet casually as well as formally, enabling people in cubicles to have enough space to turn around to have quick team meetings, providing adequate lighting and windows for natural light, will lift employees up and make them more productive.

Print advertising, bus stop ads, bus wraps, radio spots – everything should conform to your brand and its voice. For example, one movie theatre may be focusing all their off-line design on creating items that showcase their premium services including food and beverage service brought to your recliners. Another movie theatre may focus on lower prices to fill all their seats. Each of these companies require very different design concepts, materials, and voice to attract the right consumers. Think about what offline activities would be optimal for each of these scenarios.

If you are a product company, design is obviously part of the equation. Products need to work flawlessly and also be a comfortable asset in your line of products that make sense. If you are a baker, for example, offering fish as well would not be on brand, and is a higher risk than launching desserts and fine pastries.

If you are a service company, it can all boil down to how you connect with clients and prospects. This includes your receptionist, customer service and finance department (especially when doing collections). They all need to mimic the brand’s voice. For example a customer service representative at company that makes skateboards, skateboard clothing, and accessories for customising skateboards directly to the consumer, should speak more like their customers. Hearing “Have a totally awesome day, dude.” makes sense there, but not at your bank.

All of your back office personnel have a role to play as well in ensuring they design policies and systems that help empower employees and eliminate obstacles. Most back office employees frequently aren’t empowered to “design” these procedures and policies to stream processes. You will find that when employee engagement and morale improves, your employees will be more productive, stay with the company longer, and refer friends to join as well.

Good Design Works So You Don’t Have To

Invest in a good logo. Make sure you have branding guidelines. Ensure IT removes all fonts from the bulk of your employees, so they don’t out a flyer that doesn’t match your branding guidelines. Make sure Marketing approves everything that touches a client to ensure design stays top of mind with all.

This may not seem like a design blog, discussing colourways, fonts, and product design in detail, but designing and formalizing processes and procedures that empower employees to create delight in customers is a hard thing to do well without disrupting the status quo, but it is essential in expanding your customer base and generating more revenue in the long term.

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