DesignNews

Designer tells startups how design works

Interaction designer Wells Riley spells out principles behind design to aid new companies

Interaction designer Wells Riley has created 'Startups, this is how design works' , a guide for non-designers about the principles behind design and the importance of having design direction within startups.

Riley told .net that the site was built for his BFA thesis and drew on his passion for design and interest in startups, along with him noticing how many companies don't understand design: "I used to be a product and branding design consultant for startups here in Boston, and it amazed me how many companies had only a basic understanding of design, and how often this ended up hurting their businesses. There are loads of startups and great designers out there. If I could get entrepreneurs to understand the history, value and basic vocabulary of design, maybe I could get the two disciplines to work together more easily."

We asked if Riley thought there was a general misunderstanding within the tech industry about design's value and what it involves – something we've previously debated. "It depends. I think the hardest thing for some people to understand is that design is about so much more than aesthetics. When people think of design as 'making it look pretty' or 'pushing pixels', it devalues the industry tremendously," he said, stating that this causes people to not think of design as a technical profession, but as "arbitrary and purely artistic". He noted that a lot of product design happens before and after aesthetics, and design can be analytical. "Aesthetics are just one tool in the designer's toolbox," he added. "It would be like calling a senior software engineer a 'code monkey' – there's a lot more to software development than indenting brackets!"

Because of the complexity behind design, beyond aesthetics, Riley told us that it's increasingly important for startups to recognise that they need design input: "Design is becoming impossible for startups to not take seriously. Large corporations can spend millions on product and graphic design any time they want to, and the latest wave of 'hot startups' out of the Valley and NYC either have designer founders, or hold design in the highest regard. I think the demand for designers in startups is higher than ever and I expect to see that trend increase exponentially."

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