The business side of product design

How understanding business leads to effective and valuable design.

David Portelli


Great design is great business

BBusinesses all over the world exist to serve customers, hoping that their offering will be valuable enough to generate long term profits. Design is a key component in the business process, it sits at the ‘junction’ were customer needs and business objectives meet to produce the goods that customers will ultimately pay for and benefit from.

The overlap of needs and objectives at the junction necessitates careful consideration towards two dependent yet distinct entities with different needs. This makes designing products a high stakes responsibility as it gives designers the capacity to help or else negatively effect customers and the business too.

As daunting as this may sound, it is equally invigorating. The same double edged sword allows designers to create solutions which benefit both parties, becoming a massive force multiplier of positive impact on the bottom line.

If designers are to become force multipliers of success rather than mishaps, they’ve got to empathise with both parties that meet at the junction; this is a requirement for long-term success.

Design that doesn’t improve business is risky

Design that doesn’t offer anything of value to customers and the business is simply an unnecessary cost and no business can run for too long with unjustifiable costs. If an idea doesn’t produce happier and more loyal customers, if it doesn’t enhance the brand position and product attractiveness, if it doesn’t help teams work and deliver more efficiently then design can be more of a liability than an advantage.

Lots of costs go into lifting product off the ground. There’s research, planning, discussion, coordination, designing, engineering, testing, marketing, support and more — all of which cost money. Hard work and risk of failure are both guaranteed (downside), however a successful outcome which benefits both the customers and the…