At the end of the day, the majority of people have a difficult time looking past the elegant, beautiful, prettiness of design. Some companies understand (regardless of not condoning this) that people really do judge books by their covers. Honestly, it’s hard not to.
The aesthetics of design in our products and services are important. Design is social by nature as each society draws upon differing associations for what they deem as safe or dangerous, or acceptable or unacceptable. Proper etiquette takes on both form and function and it’s dependant on who you’re talking to. In other words, this can be compared to the importance found in first impressions as it’s the first thing our customers will emotionally interact with and judge.
However, the long term success of a company is well beyond the skin-deep aesthetics of design. The form of design should always follow the function of its service. When it doesn’t.. well,.. that’s another article. But for now, when you think about design it should include both aesthetic(form) and it’s service(function).
Functional Design is useful but it’s supposed to be enjoyed to. Functional Design, like aesthetic design, should be human. Examples of design like this are with services where you see the practice of:
- Hospitality — literally,.. the enjoyment of experiencing authentic, hospitable, services. Thinking of a person's needs and pains, big and small, so that they feel safe, cared for, or in some cases needed. These interactions are not cold, they’re warm, caring, and comforting.
- Empathy — Emotionally engaging with people where they are. Listening to your customers. Bearing with their frustrations, fears, and concerns. We can’t be hospitable without practicing empathy.
So when we talk about design being beyond aesthetics we’re referring to design as a system of events purposed to add practical and emotional value to a person’s life—This is a designers mindset. This can be practiced not just by the designer but by everyone who’s apart of facilitating the service. Was the goal achieved, and was it achieved well, it’s as simple as that :) — Sike!
Now when you think about design what other pictures or words come to mind?
- Having the option for one-day shipping! “Awesome I don’t have to leave my house with my 3 kids”
- Experiencing superfast internet load times!
- Receiving excellent customer service all because they knew your name without asking for it!
- Consistent cause and effect actions driving anticipated returns!
- Receiving a cold fresh drink after working outside in the hot heat all day!
These curated experiences are designed experiences aimed to create a memorable emotion—delight. In a way, this is what we refer to as user experience design, however, the point being that this isn’t all up to the UI designer. It requires the holistic mission of the company.
So when we talk about design being beyond aesthetics we’re referring to design as a system of events purposed to add practical and emotional value to a person’s life — This is a designers mindset.
What does this mean for companies?
It means we should be more intentional about investing in designed experiences. Today some of the most successful businesses think about design this way and it has provided them with an incredible competitive advantage in their markets.
Starting in 2014 Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource put together a study highlighting that the common denominator for companies that were valued at 1bill or more put design first in their companies.
Another study in 2016 from Invision, found out that “Design-centric companies outperform the S&P 500 by more than 200%”.
These companies are the leading giants in our markets today: PayPal, Netflix, Target, Shopify, Amazon, Microsoft, Airbnb, Nike, H&M, Starbucks, Dropbox, Houzz, Fabb, IBM…
Now what? Designers are leading these companies?
Well,.. not exactly. But given that they are trained in thinking this way, we need to lean on them more and prize them higher than we do.
In some companies, this is happening. Design is being reassessed as not just something that looks pretty but instead as something that can functionally engage the emotions of their customers or users. The typical response to this kind of service causes high-impact positive returns for businesses externally and internally.
So by putting design first, we are referring to investing in design thinking principles and incorporating them into a business culture's values and goals.
Practicing this design mindset will allow your teams to collaborate together on solutions with a deeper appreciation for other teammate's perspectives. The outcome of this mindset produces customer satisfaction and employee loyalty.
“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
— Tim Brown, President and CEO of IDEO.
Good design is making sure the engine runs in order to drive people from point A to point B. Provisions of both employees, running the engine of services provided, as well as customers. It puts company ego’s in check because it requires listening to whomever actively participates with the brand.
Design Thinking and beyond
Design thinking is just a starting point for practicing this mindset. Cultivating this mindset in your workplace trains your eye to better serve employees and customers. As elementary as it is, teams who are able to empathize with each other tend to also find it easier to trust one another—what?? :). This trust cultivates a safe environment. Teams who feel as though they can express their perspectives freely are more likely to take risks with their ideas with each other. More ideas give us more room to innovate allows us to create better customer experiences. Yay! Google, in their quest to building the perfect team, unpacks this nicely.