This year I was invited to sit on the advisory board of a high-profile startup event, where founders take the stage to pitch their work to investors and media. Hundreds of startups apply for the opportunity, and only 40 are selected to participate. And I'm one of the people who vote on this selection.
This week, I graded 87 of these applications from startups. I read their decks, websites, and business plans. I'm now convinced, 100%, more than ever, that design matters very much for all startups – regardless of size, industry, etc.
But the reason why design matters is not what you're thinking.
This is what we know: Your company looks mature and unique with a well-designed deck or website. Good design helps you get your point across. Your customers, investors, and team understand everything faster. Because of all this, they trust you more, and you succeed in the market.
So: Good design is good for business.
But, there's more to it – here's the most important point of investing in design as a startup:
Design is a tool for thought.
Regardless of whether you hire a designer to work on your startup, or just go through a design-like process yourself, you improve your thinking, vision, and strategy in this process.
As you brief and de-brief your designer, through conversations and deliverables about your brand, product, and communications, you refine what your company is about — adding iterations and layers of polish to your strategy and how you communicate it.
Among the 87 startups I graded, I saw an undeniable correlation between good design and mature ideas: I graded "designed" decks and websites 10x faster than those without a designer's touch. And a much higher proportion of them got my vote to participate — not because I like how they look, but because I understand what they do. Because they know what they are saying, and it shows, literally.
Everyone talks about "writing as a tool for thought" — we know that writing down our ideas actually leads to better ideas. Well, design works the same way.
I encourage all startup founders to hire a designer to work on your product, website, and branded communications. And use them as an artist/strategist. At the very least, hire a design advisor for consulting sessions.
Designers are good for your business.
If you're not using design as an instrument for strategy at your startup, you're leaving money on the table.