These days, most designers are at least vaguely familiar with Dietr Rams and his “10 Principles of Good Design.” In case you aren’t, check out his principles here. These “Ten Commandments” now serve as building blocks for interdisciplinary designers across the world. When designers transition from creating solutions for clients to creating solutions for startups in the entrepreneurial space, these principles become even more crucial to the design DNA of their solutions. Here are the “10 Principles of Entrepreneurial Design”:
When developing a product or service, technological innovation is typically a key motivator. But what about innovation in design? This isn’t just how a product looks. Design should be apparent inside and out. If innovative design is considered from the beginning, it can grow in tandem with technological innovation. Ideally, neither should exist without the other.
By this point, it is pretty apparent that startups are adopting highly iterative processes in order to quickly validate whether someone will use their product or not. In much the same way, good design helps to highlight the utility of the product or service without detracting from its intended purpose. Form should echo the function of the product.
This is probably the most commonly considered principle of good design. When someone thinks of good design, they are most likely conjuring up images of sleek smart phones and other minimal objects that are “aesthetically pleasing.” Aesthetics draw from the appreciation of beauty, which means good design is meant draw the user in and keep them engaged through a well designed experience. Aesthetically speaking, it is OK to judge a book by its cover.
Good design can be elusive due to the fine line of too much or too little. When a startup is creating a seemingly simple solution to a complex problem, good design can be the difference between their user finding it simply intuitive and frustratingly moving on to the next big thing. Good design can reinforce the product’s function, give it a personality altogether and even make the product self-explanatory.
This principle may not be the first thing that comes to mind when discussing the startup or entrepreneurial space. In fact, quite the opposite. The word “disrupt” gets thrown around a lot when talking about how to innovate or break into a new market. In terms of the product, service or solution itself, design should reinforce the function of the product rather than overshadow it. The product should simply “make sense.”
In a world where traditional advertising has dominated for the past 60 years, honesty can have countless definitions. When approaching product development from a design thinking lens, design should not be used to make promises to the user that cannot be kept. Due to the accessibility of information today, consumers and users value transparency and are able to objectively measure the utility of a product. Good design cannot mask a bad product.
These days, the development cycle of a product has become shorter and shorter with movements such as agile development and rapid ideation. With this sense of urgency to validate an idea comes the need to incorporate thoughtful design that can stand the test of time. Much like creating an MVP (minimum viable product), one can create MVD (minimum viable design). However, MVD should include room from growth and development. Design trends are important to identify in order to avoid identical positioning within a competing market. In order to stand out, you have to learn how others fit in.
Good design is intentional, which means, no design-related decision should be left to chance. User-centered design has become more or less of a standard when applied to product development. No one wants to waste time or money on something no one wants. Determine the need for a product, and then use a purposeful design that communicates that need. The devil is in the details.
Sustainability isn’t a fad or trend. Startups that have embraced being mindful towards the environment have not only seen reductions in material waste, they have also enjoyed the backing of environmentally-conscious brand loyalists as well as positive positioning among competitors. Good design has helped make this transition a little easier for startups that are up for the challenge. For a startup, conserving resources translates to decreased expenses which, as any bootstrapping entrepreneur knows, can mean the difference between life and death for your company.
This may be the most crucial principle of the ten mentioned above. Good design abides by the rule: quality over quantity. The best design is sometimes the least apparent because it allows the form to reflect the function. A worthwhile design creates elegant solutions to complicated problems. Good design can help distill these complex concepts into simple features that the intended user can effortlessly enjoy. In the case of a new app or product, the design should highlight the most crucial features, no more, no less.
Designers have been using these ten principles to guide their designs for years. If startups want to have a competitive advantage, they need to utilize these same principles of good design in their products. Just like almost any other component of entrepreneurship, it is important to learn the rules of design so that you can learn how to reinvent them.