As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Startup founders who “get” design

In my last post I whined about business people not understanding what industrial designers do. The corollary is that design is undervalued as a strategic tool. So, it was really satisfying to see three of the startup execs in Founders at Work (a book I reviewed earlier) crediting good design in their companies’ successes.

Both Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield of Flickr shared design backgrounds, so their professional expertise influenced every step of the Flickr development. At Adobe Systems, Charles Geschke describes how knowing the difference between good and bad design was critical to product development. And Paul Graham of ViaWeb says,

“The other thing was, we had good graphic design. Our secret weapon was that we knew that e-commerce was really about graphic design, not transaction processing. Unless you had a site that could convince people to buy, you didn’t have a transaction to process, and what convinced people to buy was how good the site looked. So we made sure that our software made great-looking sites–not just better than our competitors, but better than most of the sites that big companies paid web consultants half a million dollars to make for them.”

Admittedly, Graham’s analysis is not profound, and all of these founders are really talking about graphic design, not industrial design, but it is still refreshing to see their comments.

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