This presentation speaks to designers of all types to help them understand the business implications of design, to appreciate the expertise in others that can propel their ideas into fruition and to know when/how to ask for help.
Hello and thank you so much for coming. My name is Amy Dubin and my company is RingleaderPDX. You can find me in all the usual suspects: amy@ringleaderpdx, @ringleaderpdx and of course my website. Thanks so much to our sponsors today, Webtrends, Eric Redmond, PDX Web & Design, Vitamin T, Northwest Creatives Social Club, and any other volunteers that helped to facilitate today’s talk. We’re here today to talk about the idea of “Designing in a Bubble” which was originally formulated as a talk for IDSA-the Industrial Design Society’s 3BY10 series, which is a monthly talk where 3 people speak for 10 minutes a piece, once a month, about issues surrounding Industrial Design. This talk seems timely and relevant, not only for Industrial Designers, but I realized for designers of al types.
As you can see, everyone from writers to architects to navigation designers are all part of the IA universe and if you find yourself in this realm, chances are you are a designer who works with a lot of technical backstory too. This infographic isn’t even complete, but comes as close as I can find. Throughout the last 5 years of networking in Portland, I’ve realized that the word designer is SO vague, even within the industry-and the resources and services within the community are somewhat fragmented. How can one design for the ‘biggest possible picture’ in mind? What does that look like? Who REALLY are you designing for?So, let’s start from the beginning and unpack the idea of ‘Designing in a bubble’-Which may as well be called when Creativity, Technology and Business Collide. How many of you are freelancers?How many own your own company?The beginning of my talk is largely geared towards those who are freelancers, innovators or those interested in a startup of their own, though it really applies to any designer from any discipline working in any industry.
So, whether you’re a freelancer or working for someone else, this initial process ought to look very familiar. There’s an idea, a discussion and some concepts start to emerge about how this idea might take shape.
So, the design process begins…
Coming up with ways, either digital or physical that this idea could come into fruition through prototyping.
Once you get something for people to start interacting with, then you can start doing some testing, assessing, figuring out how to make everything functional. Yes, I know I’m skipping some steps, but you get the idea!
POW! You’ve got yourself a product! It’s amazing and you think it’s going to be the next gigantic thing.
This idea been in development for years, right?What happens to it now?
A lot goes into making what you do, whether it’s your money invested in the product or not. Even if you don’t have any cash money put in, you’ve already dedicated your time and so if you think about it in terms of your otherwise hourly or daily or monthly billable rate-the opportunity cost can rack up into the thouands, tens of thousands even hundreds of thousands. That’s money that you could otherwise have been making, or money you might be hoping to get back. We all know we can’t get back our time. It has value and you’d only do what you do because you’re getting paid to or hope to one day. Even if you think “it would be nice but it doesn’t really matter”, still. It crosses your mind.
Design is business and if you only know about design,you’re only seeing a part of the picture. Being a designer means taking into account an enormous array of factors. Designing a product means being part of the design of the business and marketing plans that go with it and coming up with a product that fits the whole picture and not just the ‘cool’ design half.
So, there are a few key things about the crossover of design, technology and business here. Of course this bike was designed with the usual user factors-anatomy, horsepower and all those good things. Actually, I kind of want it. One thing about this bike is that there are a number of extraneous factors that may or may not have been considered. Was this the company’s only product, or is it part of a line? Would a company need to overextend its budget to get the exact green you’ve designed? Business dictates design which is why maybe things don’t look the way you had originally intended by the time you get done. What are the upsells here? How would it fit into a showroom full of other such bikes? If most showrooms of the day were just regular motorcycles, and a company launched this new sidecar idea, then suddenly that’s taking up significantly more real estate. The person who is selling it might need some extra training to explain to possible customers how to use it, though it may be incredibly obvious to the designer. The marketing materials all need to be updated. So do the sales materials, the catalogs, the order forms, the database of possible markets might have just expanded because of your design. What kind of ripple effect does your work have In the marketplace. How is what you do competitive to others that do something similar? Are you designing for the person riding the bike or all the other people and factors that go into launching the product into the marketplace? How expensive is the product to make PLUS some of those business factors, which wildly differ for different kinds of companies. When you release a software update, what kinds of design and business implications could that have? It’s about realizing that you are designing a product destined for commerce, which is a process and not just for the end user.
Supply/Demand: Explain tea as simple supply/demand. Translated means, you want your product to be in demand so YOU are in demand. What are ways to start brainstorming how to take some of these business factors into your design process? Design for BizX ‘Business Experience’. It doesn’t make sense to propose a ‘cool product’ if it can’t pencil out for an investor or to a potential market. Do you have a plan? Business, marketing and some financial projections help to clarify some of the questions. How will it affect the acquiring company’s (i.e. the people you are selling to) bottom line if you’re the one doing the manufacturing? Growth potential: Can you come up with ways to ‘upsell’ your product or specifically design modules that the company or customer can ‘add on’ for the complete experience allowing a starting point that’s easy for people to afford? Will the ‘next version’ be a total redesign or an update? Could designing the next version from the beginning make business sense? YES!!!!!!! Finally, your target market. Will your product grow with them? Meaning, will it be something someone will have for a long time, or will outgrow it and your market will always be for say, 18-20 year olds. Can you design for longevity within your target market? Can the price for your product start out higher since a person could have it for a lifetime vs. 1 year? Figuring out pricing is one of those tough bits because it means we sort of have to talk about money and business systems. The first is….who wants to do business with you anyhow? Are you looking for partnerships? How’s your credit?
I might know what you’re thinking. I’m not a business person, I’m a designer. Or, this is why I work for a company so I don’t have to think about these things. Or, my partner handles all that. I DO NOT have time nor interest in making a foray into business because you know what? It’s boring. Or, whose business is it what my credit looks like? Will it make a difference? Maybe yes, maybe no!Everyone that raised your hands indicating you were a freelancer, raise your hand again.Guess what. You’re already business people. You already know you have to market yourselves, invoice clients, deal with accounting and taxes, design or develop products you think will sell so that you can eat. My mother told me when I was still in film school. “You know what, Amy? If you love taking pictures and you decide to sit on the sidewalk in SOHO and sell your prints for $10 a pop and someone buys one, that’s business. And if you don’t know anything about business as a creative person and furthermore a woman, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. Okay fine, maybe you can accept that place. Maybe making yourself purposely disadvantaged makes some kind of ‘but I’m an artist not a sell-out’ business sense. But the truth is-it doesn’t really behoove you. Because competition requires advantage. And having some business knowhow IS your advantage. Maintaining status-quo at your self-imposed disadvantage is impossible because fear kicks in. How am I going to get my next gig? How can this product sell enough so that I can work only when I feel like it and spend time hiking the gorge or at my kids’ dance recitals. How can I be creative and build the kind of life I want? You’re going to have to suck it up and learn a thing or two about designing for business. If you don’t, it gets ugly.
It’s the knowing when and who to ask for help that’s the tricky bit. Not only do you need to get the kind of help you’re looking for, you also need to be open to it too. Even if it’s not what you want to hear. A procedure I like to call ‘opening the mail’. Going back to the idea that a product is not a business-setting up a business and business systems can be overwhelming, even if you know what to do. The reason it’s not horrible, is because you’re already doing some of it most likely. If you’re a freelancer and you’ve got a website and some business cards, hey-great! If you’re working with accounting software like Quickbooks and managing contacts and workflow with programs like Highrise/Basecamp, great! You’re well on your way. Those are a few of the back end things I’m talking about. Those are business systems. If you’re not building your contact database in an efficient manner currently, tonight is a great place to start.
What if you don’t do it? What if you say screw it-can’t be bothered. I’m getting enough work now so I don’t have to worry about it, or I know enough people in this town I can always find work. Or, Money’s not the most important thing, and besides ‘opening the mail is scary and I know I’m not going to be able to do anything about it because of either time or money. It’s like going to the dentist. If you go and maintain your smile, yes, it’s like whatever $200 extra dollars you might not have/want to spend and can’t really take time off work to go. You get a cavity. It gets worse. You get a few and over time, you need a root canal or dentures. You think, okay, well, I did this to myself I don’t’ mind being toothless. Well, that’s cool for you, but turns out, you’re not in a bubble. You’re in business and what you and don’t do affects other people, whether you want it to or not. By you saying ‘screw it, I’ll go toothless,’ then others may have to go toothless too. If you don’t open the mail and deal with your business, you’re causing a clog in the chain of chain of cash flow by which others can suffer. So, designing say an AWESOME vintage bike but refusing to acknowledge the fact that the back end of your business needs just as much design of a different kind will hold you back.
There may be a lot of crossover and it’s possible you can wear all of these shoes, but it is difficult without knowing as much about business as you do about design. Knowwhen to call in help. Youwillneed a business plan (orhavean idea of what the companyyou’reworking for isdoing), a marketing plan (orhavean idea of what the companyyou’reworking for isdoing), and someone to adviseyou on the bestway to set upyourcompany, ifyou’regoing to haveemployees, etc. Becauseall of thatgoesinto the price of whateveryou’remaking. Having a lawyer, and anaccountantareobvious, but you do alsoneed business and marketing professionals to helpyoualong the waytoo. Learn to speaksome of theirlanguage, try and understandwhatthey’redoing and whysothatyoudon’tgetovercharged. Try and seethattechnicalwork, creativework and business allwork in partnershiptowards the same goal. Constantdemand with respect to value, sustainability and quality.If you do start to think about what you do have that IS working, figure out what’s not, or where you can improve. Like going to business networking events. Hey, you’re already at a networking event. Not so horrible! Just go to a few different ones. Cross-pollinate, as it were. Even if you’re working for a company, if you show you care about the business by designing according to their marketing initiatives and you know what’s coming down the line and why, you’re creating value. The problem is is that some companies don’t share much of that information and farm out work on a need-to-know basis. It doesn’t mean it’s not okay to ask to know what’s down the road. If they don’t know or don’t have a plan, then as a designer, suggesting that there be one and doing work that feeds into future goals-if done tactfully, could be very powerful.That is something that can set you apart as a designer. Here are ways to find the info if you’re social…
This looks kind of scary because you might not have the money for this, but a business plan accounts for expenses like these. If you open the mail, lay it all out on the table and realize you’re going to need some more capital, that’s an ‘open the mail’ situation and you figure out what you need and look for ways to get it. Maybe it’s time to raise your rates? Maybe someone else has some ‘connections’, maybe a company that would be an ideal client might pay some of your development expenses. Without a sound plan, it’s not likely someone is going to give you $3 million for your tech company when you don’t know the first thing about how to run a business. Just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean you’re a business person. Just because you’re good at business, design and tech doesn’t mean you’re not lazy and don’t do your homework.
Meetup.com Portland GroupsTech30: Specific Language=17, but at least several are related to startups/running businesses Like CIO or CTO Creative10 There are a few crossover groups like writers/directors, nw social club, but by and large, on meetup, there are very few that are specific to individual creative disciplines.Business19 The business groups are largely lead generators, but a good thing to see is Startup Founders, with 580 members. If you’re a freelancer just getting started, you need the same business concepts as any tech startup with a product and no plan.Crossover22 All the crossover groups are interesting because they’re real opportunities to get connected with others that have expertise in multiple areas like the Web and Design group here or the content strategy folks who number into almost 600 members. Of all the industry meetup groups, PDX Web & Design is the largest with over 1300 members. Once you start to see how to connect to those who share cross-industry or opposite skill sets, you can make the most of your networking time. People love making referrals, I know I do! For example, if you have a few legal questions on business filing, call a lawyer and have a quick phone chat. Most will let you know what you need to do as a free initial consultation and how much it’ll cost to get what you need to have done completed. Business filing, copyrights (did you know you can copyright code?) and trademarks are all good to get legal advice for, yes, like going to the dentist, you might have to pay money but things will be set up properly from the get-go and it’s not going to cost you down the road. If you’ve come up with a startup idea or product, and you’ve already sunk what would be a full year’s salary into the concept, why would you put all that at risk? Open the mail, realize it’s a cost and make it as part of your business plan. Finding people that can help mentor you is great, and you don’t have to go to networking events-maybe there’s a business person in your family, or a lawyer or a shareholder of a few companies who might need a product just like yours. But coasting about might not bring about your definition of success, unless your definition of success is to simply coast. At least you know exactly what you’re doing.
So check this out.Meetup is largely a site that has social groups for anything from motorcycles to puppies. As you’ve seen, there’s quite a lot available. Maybe you can’t be bothered to join a group on meetup and want to know what’s going on RIGHT NOW? Check out Calagator for the latest in creative, tech and business events. However, ANYONE can post an event and there are interesting things popping up all the time. I encourage everyone to post any business, creative or tech event that might happen your way. You might see some business incubator information on it-those aren’t just for tech startups anymore and I encourage you to keep up with the blog, siliconflorist for opportunities in town to get help with a startup that’s not developing new technology, per se. You’ll see events related to business and legal.
Arts & Entertainment: 15 categoriesBusiness & Finance: 10 categoriesComputers: 15 categories.Wading through these groups is really horrible. However, they’re a great place to start asking questions without having to be social.
With eyes looking to Portland for business answers in the CreativeTech hub that we are, having well-designed back-ends of our businesses will help attract and keep business coming into our area. Having a healthy, thriving business, even if it’s just you, doesn’t mean selling your soul or selling out to ‘the man’. You can do, have and be whatever you want and when you have a plan, you’ll know the difference between where you are now and where you’d like to be. This goes as much for individuals as companies.
Amy Dubin: Designing in a Bubble
Designing in a bubble?
Amy Dubin : Ringleaderpdx
Human Factors & Ergonomics
Data & Info Visualization
Great Idea! What do you think?
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