Companies like Apple are making design impossible for startups to ignore. Startups like GitHubAirbnbSquare, and Fitbit have design at the core of their business, and they’re doing phenomenal work.

But what is ‘design’ actually? Is it a logo? A WordPress theme? An innovative UI?

It’s so much more than that. It’s a state of mind. It’s an approach to a problem. It’s how you’re going to kick your competitor’s ass. This handy guide will help you understand design and provide resources to help you find awesome design talent.

De•sign [dəzajn] is a method of problem solving.

The simplest definition. Design is so many things, executed in many different ways, but the function is always the same. Whether it’s blueprints, a clever UI, a brochure, or a chair – design can help solve a visual or physical problem. 1

So what is
“good design”?

This definition is not so simple. The best designs are notorious for seeming not designed at all – or ‘undesigned’.

It’s easier if we break things down a bit. If you know what to look for, it’s easier to identify good design when you see it; or perhaps when you can’t see it at all.

Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of  “Good Design”
(Wow, how convenient is that?)

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer closely associated with the consumer products company Braun and functionalist industrial design.

According to Vitsœ: Back in the early 1980s, aware that his design was a significant contributor to the world, he asked himself an important question:
“Is my design good design?”

Since good design can’t be measured in a finite way, he set about expressing the ten most important principles for what he considered was good design. (Sometimes they are referred as the ‘Ten commandments’.) Here they are.

“We designers, we don’t work in a vacuum. We need business people. We are not the fine artists we are often confused with. Today you find few companies that take design seriously, as I see it.”

— Dieter Rams

Take a look at your current product – is design contributing in an innovative way? Does it make the product useful, understandable, and aesthetic? Is it long-lasting, or will it look outdated or break in a few years?

These are really hard questions to answer. Designers enable you to work within these constraints to create a product customers will fall in love with. Love is a really strong emotion.

Dieter Rams and his contemporaries started a movement in 20thCentury towards simple and beautiful products. Design was a strongly valued aspect of business, even 60 years ago. It totally has a place in business today – it’s a proven method.

Designer Founders: the missing link

Startups + designers = ?

For a long time, a pair of co-founders consisted of an executive and an engineer. It worked for Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, just to name a few. These companies have excellent designers today, because it’s a necessity they can’t afford to ignore. It seems like design is becoming more and more prevalent in new startups as well – SquareFitbitTapbots, and more are pushing the envelope.

Design is becoming a key differentiator for companies to acquire funding, press coverage,
and loyal users.

I think it’s time to shake things up a bit.
Let’s add designers into the mix.

A guide for non-designers by Wells Riley.