One of the major components in developing an application, platform, or technological service is how it’s built, which is why engineers are often placed on a pedestal. However, it’s not just function that matters – appearance has a tremendous impact on the product’s success.
In recognition of this, 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,” said 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, increasing numbers of venture capitalists are helping startups with design strategy, including the likes of Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, SoftTech VC, and, of course, the aptly named Designer Fund.
Ben Blumenfeld, 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 a little prodding, he finds that’s not the case, which raises a red flag. “How you think of design holistically is important,” he said.
If competition for engineers is a given, competition for good designers can be equally fierce. Blumenfeld said that a lot more needs to be done to develop great designers in sufficient numbers. Google Ventures’ design partner Daniel Burka said, “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). But more than having star designers on the team, it’s about fostering a design culture within the company. Said 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.”
As Mia Blume, Pinterest’s product design manager, put it in the trailer for Design Disruptors: “People have choice now. If they open [a product] up and in a few seconds they don’t immediately understand the value, they’re done.”
A sign that the industry is paying attention is the number of corporations that 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 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 in this post. The full movie is expected to be released in early 2016.
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