Design is not a bolt-on

How many entrepreneurs started out by asking the question "How do I want my users and customers to feel when using my service?"

Instead, many founders look at holes in the market, interations on existing ideas and tend to make feature lists of what things would make their offering better, more difficult to copy, or spread faster--but they often don't think about design until it comes time to "make it pretty". 

What would Apple products look like if "make it pretty" was at the end of the process?  I'd imagine they'd look a lot like Blackberries and Lenovo ThinkPads. 

Design is something that needs to be considered from the beginning--even a driver of the process.  Part of that comes with having a designer to work with on your team as early as possible--something I rarely see.  Most entreprenuers simply don't want to spend the money on a designer, or don't believe it's nearly as important as just getting something out there in any form, but that can be very short sighted.  It can make your build more complex, as designers tend to rationalize, streamline, and simplify.  It can hinder your PR, as things that impress on first use tend to get better writeups and more buzz.  It can even hinder your fundraising process, as a well designed product could signal a more capable team.  All of these things seem worth the investment to me.

In the next couple of months, I'm going to be putting together a speaker series on how design inspires startups.  The series is meant for designers and design-minded entrepreneurs--to get NYC's visually creative professionals insight into the world of design-driven startups.  A lot of designers don't want to work at a startup because they think it will limit their creative freedom--and often times, they're right.  Who wants to work somewhere that treats design like a bolt-on?  Entrepreneurs need to make the job of a designer at a startup a more interesting and influential position, and designers need to understand how they can create the biggest impact at a startup.

The first event is next Wednesday night.  It will be a 1:1 conversation with Mari Sheibley, lead mobile designer at Foursquare.  Most of you have seen her work, especially after three straight nights of drinking or a wayward trip north of 59th street.  We'll be talking about the role of design at Foursquare and how designers can make an impact at the companies they work for.  You can RSVP to the event, hosted at NYIT, here.