While obtaining my undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University (Whoop!), I took the Intro to Environmental Design class. The professor divided the semester into two parts. The first part of the semester we learned to draw and then the second half we sketched objects, buildings, and structures created from our imagination. Part of our assignment was to study a building that appeared, on the surface to have no redeeming qualities, to the uneducated eye, the building was boring.
For hours I sat studying and sketching the gray building. With time, delicate lines, angles, and shadows revealed the beauty and simplistic architectural qualities. I learned good design is seamless to the point the user never pauses to notice. I also learned design is the foundation of everything we build and create including our businesses.
Design is interwoven into every part of our world. Steve Jobs understood design and its definitive impact on our businesses and surroundings. When we create our businesses, we have a visual design – a goal, in mind, that defines what we are seeking to achieve. For some business owners, their goal is to scale and add employees; whereas others prefer to be solo entrepreneurs.
For all businesses, big and small, design is the starting point and foundation. It’s the drawings on the napkin or the graphics in our digital notes – it’s the visual image that defines where we are going. Every decision we make incorporates the overall design.
As business owners, our attention is pulled in multiple directions. We work to stay current in our rapidly changing world which can steer us off course and away from our original design.
Our business design conveys our authenticity, validates the business model, and ensures our products or services provide value. From my professional experience and college class, I learned the key elements of design.
Key Elements of Design
I’ve learned the most important design element is to be authentic. When there are disconnects in the design everyone notices, such as when a potential customer reads your brand message on the company’s website and then hears a different pitch over the phone. Being authentic includes knowing when the business needs to evolve, add new services or eliminate unprofitable practice areas. When the authentic vision of the business is conveyed the message resonates across all platforms.
Design Validates the Business Model, Products, and Services
A business model is in its simplest form is a design idea to generate profit. When we are in a hurry to complete the design, or create unauthentic products, or are distracted from our goal, mistakes and problems occur.
Last year, a new house was built on our street. Each day the architect visited the project to ensure no problems occurred. None of the crew members notified the architect he had failed to include an HAVC system, until after the sheetrock was completed. In Texas, air conditioning is a must.
The architect’s failure to double check the critical components of house plans created a costly mistake for his firm and a delay for the homeowners.
We think to ourselves we’ll see the missing air conditioning unit, but often we become overwhelmed by action items we perceived to be important allowing problems to continue unchecked.
Take a moment to think about the design of your business. Is your business model consistent with the vision or has it evolved? Has the design model highlighted problem areas? Have you addressed these areas? If not, why not? Do you have a missing air conditioner?
Design for Value
Staying true to the design keeps you focus on building a sustainable business. When we add to many features or additional space such as in a house, it is best to stop and consider – are we adding real or perceived value?
Write on paper or in a digital note where your company provides tangible value and then look at areas that are marginal. Are there products or services that drain resources? If you are unsure, take a piece of paper and sketch out your business. How do you help? What is the central design theme in the service offerings? Work to simplify your efforts on the areas that provide the most value to your customers and business.
Healthy businesses understand the value of good design and when to prune areas that no longer provide a benefit.
Take a break, walk outside, and look at nature for inspiration. Think about the design elements of your business. Do these elements match your goals? Is the design consistent with the evolution of the business if not, why not?
Let us know what you discover.