Why Design Driven Companies Thrive.

Greater user empathy yields more useful products.

Laura Pereyra
June 18, 2014

The number of companies that have been founded by designers are few. But those that have successfully integrated design into their company DNA have produced innovative solutions to user needs and created a lasting positive impact to their brands. How do these companies--companies like Mosey, Pinterest, and Airbnb--thrive as a result of prioritizing user-centered design?

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Jessica L’Esperance, Huge’s VP of UX in San Francisco, explained at a recent panel on the subject: “As designers, we can create change by bringing in the voice of the user in a way that design didn’t always get to share with the rest of the organization. It has been very powerful for me and [my clients].” By focusing on the user and innovating according to user needs, design-centered companies are able to make a strong and lasting impact on their customers and in their markets. Greater user empathy yields more useful products--from social media tools to tech wearables. 

Mosey’s Matthew Loyd pointed out the wide reach of this perspective: “Design driven companies make a point of putting design into the boardrooms, the metrics, and into the values of a company.” 

But the Designer Fund’s Enrique Allen cautioned the overuse of the term “design-driven” so as not to exclude other key players necessary to build a user-centered product and successful company. He believes that “there needs to be a healthy tension between creatives, engineers, and business. If only one of those groups win, we all lose.” Collaboration and user centered design need to be embedded across different parts of a company to succeed. Allen highlights how he sees far more success when designer founders have a strong technical partner. Dropbox’s Mark Delamere agrees. At Dropbox, their company culture embraces designer and engineer collaboration on a consistent basis: “The idea of a design driven company is that design is for the entire company, not just designers but for engineers also.” 

Matthew Loyd also talks about how companies that embrace design can also have a lasting positive impact on their branding. “The worlds [of design, product, and marketing] are crossing into each other. It’s the way that we’re opening up a conversation for design. It’s about everyone considering the power of a message and a product. And I think that’s an opportunity for us more than anything moving forward.” As more and more companies design to put the user first they focus on being advocates and champions of their users, creating more opportunities for their companies to thrive and innovate.