New documentary casts spotlight on design’s impact on a product’s success

Tobias van Schneider, Art Director & Product Design Lead, Spotify

One of the major components in developing an application, platform, or technological service is how it’s built and this places engineers on a pedestal. However, it’s not just how it functions that matters, but also how it looks. The designers that are the ones that are having an impact on a product’s success because if the customer experience isn’t right, then just why would anyone use it?

It’s because of this that design collaboration platform InVision has produced a full-length documentary entitled “Design Disruptors”. The film features interviews with 15 of what InVision says are the “world’s most disruptive companies,” including Airbnb, Coursera, Dropbox, Etsy, Eventbrite, Evernote, Facebook, Google Ventures, Twitter, Spotify, Salesforce, Netflix, and Pinterest.

“The impact these companies are having on industries that have remained largely unchanged for a century is astounding,” says InVision chief executive Clark Valberg. “‘Design Disruptors’ showcases the incomparable impact design is having on modern businesses, and in turn the world.”

Within the technology industry in Silicon Valley, there are companies and organizations helping startups with design strategy and thinking. More and more venture capitalists are getting involved in helping startups focus on the design element, including the likes of Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, SoftTech VC, and of course the aptly named Designer Fund.

Ben Blumenfeld, the general partner and cofounder of Designer Fund, said at an August event that oftentimes people approach his firm claiming to already value design. But after enough prodding and investigating, that’s not the case, which is a red flag. “How you think of design holistically is important,” he said.

Google Ventures Design Partner Daniel Burka

Above: Google Ventures Design Partner Daniel Burka

Image Credit: InVision

In an industry where engineers are highly prized, it can be equally difficult to bring on quality designers. Blumenfeld said that a lot more needed to be done before great designers can be produced at scale. Google Ventures’ design partner Daniel Burka says “One of the things [Google Ventures] does a lot is sit down with teams to see what skills you have and talk about how to fill the gaps while looking across the timeline: what are the likely skills you’re going to need…right now the industry is much more fragmented in what people can and can’t do and what their skill level is like. It needs to be improved over the next decade.”

If you need proof that design is gaining a seat at the table, just look at companies like August, which was founded by famed designer Yves Behar; and Airbnb, founded by two graduates from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). It’s all about making sure that you’re having a great design culture. Says Burka: “Companies that are successful at design don’t have better designers than everyone else…when designers give a sh*t about teaching everyone else about design…is when you’ll be successful.”

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As Mia Blume, Pinterest’s product design manager, puts it in the trailer for “Design Disruptors”: “People have choice now. If they open it up and in a few seconds they don’t immediately understand the value, they’re done.” With plenty of services competing against each other, what’s going to be the main distinguisher if they do exactly the same thing: chances are the actual experience of using it.

It looks like companies are really paying attention as corporations have snatched up design firms to update their arsenals. Capital One not only acquired Adaptive Path in 2014, but also Oakland, Calif.-based Monsoon. According to KPCB’s John Maeda’s Design In Tech report this year, 27 startups cofounded by designers have been acquired since 2010, including the likes of Flickr, YouTube, Gowalla, Foodspotting, Simple, Tumblr, Mailbox, About.me, and Pulse.

InVision has released a trailer, which we’ve embedded to this post. The full movie is expected to be released in early 2016.

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