Design is information

It seems to me the companies with the greatest customer loyalty are those where design has a strong presence in the corporate culture. I don’t mean this in a touchy-feely way. I mean that customer loyalty is worth billions of dollars, and most companies see fit to leave that on the table.

Design is product. Fonts and colors are not design – they are decoration. Design is the hard work of understanding everything a customer might do, or want to do, how they will do it, and how they will be rewarded. It is an evaluation of the customer’s cost/benefit.

Design should report into the c-suite, or be in the c-suite. Two companies where this is the case: Apple (natch) and financial newcomers Square. I see raves about Square all the time. Those raves are customers that will tell ten friends or 1000 Twitter followers. Try purchasing that goodwill via traditional marketing.

More than anything, design is information. It is a specification. It requires us to articulate what we are selling. Until we have a design, we don’t know what the user will experience, and therefore don’t know what our product is.

Everything we do as programmers is based on our own tacit assumptions about what the product should be. We think of ourselves as logical creatures. But our premise – “this is what the customer wants” – is often so unempirical and unexplored as to make the whole enterprise a bit, um, onanistic.

Implementation without design is reason is pursuit of folly.

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