Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Design-Centric Digital Organization

The design is an art. Like all art, there is both a technical aspect and a subjective aspect.

Being "design-centric" means the design is the differentiating feature or innovation in the product or brand. It implies an organizational hierarchy where design is the dominate force, and all other decisions or compromises are subordinate, deferring to design rather than engineering or economics.

The design does not necessarily mean aesthetics, though it often does. The design could be focused on making something more accessible or easier to use rather than making it symmetrical and pretty. The design is an art. Like all art, there is both a technical aspect and a subjective aspect. Good design can never be proven, it can only be judged.

In most organizations, there is the tension between "design-centric" and "feature-centric." Cultures dominated by systems engineers tend to place feature implementation concerns above design concerns. Thus design is subordinate to implementation.
Design = forming human-made objects to be pleasing and preferred by humans.
Engineering = making things work as efficiently and correctly as possible.

Embrace design-centered development when you have a highly competitive environment around functionality. When the checkboxes on the back of the cereal box are no longer sufficient to drive margins; you should reinvent the category by focusing on design. That trick used to work better than it currently does because nowadays there are so many studios doing excellent design work that design is no longer a binary differentiator. It's not something you either have or don't have; it's something that you get judged at...which makes competition really hard.

The big advantage to being design centered is that you prioritize in making things likable vs. just making them functioning. The ability to systematically measure audience response to design and innovation is no proof of one’s ability to predict that response; nor one’s ability attribute modulations in audience response to individual design treatments and innovations. Being design-centric certainly changes the types of innovation one gets but doesn't make you more innovative in all perspectives.

Being design-centric is when innovation meets the products/services to fit the design proposed as long as costs meet the criteria, not over engineer for sure, with performance meeting expectations likely defined. Though the design is not for its own sake, the ultimate goal is to delight the users and end customers, to improve customer experience & satisfaction. Hence, a design-centric organization shall also be a customer-centric business.  


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