The Product of Design

For years, I was told and subsequently believed, to be a successful entrepreneur I needed to find that left brainer. Needless to say, this quest has been riddled with bumps, bruises, and failed relationships. What I have learned is, I perpetually gave too much credence to the directive of finding the left brain to be successful.

I tend to do a lot of self-reflection, probably somewhat obsessively. What worked, what didn’t work, why, what do I need to do different ultimately pushing to not make the same mistakes again. While reflecting recently, I had an epiphany — about the business of design.

What I quickly came to realize — Design is product. It’s a product that is uniquely special, formed from years of feedback, (often — brutal critique) trial and error, influences, style trends, emotion, and talent. It is special because it is unique, personal — your view of the world. Clients, consumers, others, buy it because of that unique trait and quality. You sell Design, you evolve Design, you support your Design. It is a product. We as designers view ourselves only as “artists” instead of embracing the fact we are inherently in the business of selling our design product.

It gets a little heady I get that, but the reality is, no-one is going to run the business of you, but you. Let’s face it, our product, as any product, be evaluated before purchase, it solves business problems, it provides value on across the whole organization. But the real buying decision comes back down to the product itself — your art. No other job role gets hired based on how things look, but yet, it is the most important element in consumers eyes.

Just like any other product, your art/design has to continually evolve to address new challenges and needs — to grow and expand with the trends of consumers to continually stay relevant. Isn’t this exactly what a business has to do? Many times in interviews, I get asked, “What is the thing you are most proud of?” Without hesitation, I say — I’m still relevant. I didn’t even realize the importance of that statement until I started really thinking about the business of design.

The next time you look for new job, answer an RFP, or show your portfolio — change your thinking. You are a business with a product — and in order for you to capitalize on your product, you need to understand the business. Don’t undervalue yourself by merely seeking acceptance and validation, treat yourself as you are the next fortune 100 company with a killer product. If you can start thinking this way, you will be a step way ahead of the pack.

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