It’s Simple. Design Communicates.

by Luke Wroblewski March 3, 2006

Let’s start off with a simple definition of leadership. Leaders establish a vision, communicate it to their team and stakeholders, and drive for results to make that vision a reality. Companies with people in this role deliver quality products at the right time. Unfortunately, finding great leaders is hard.

Some people have remarkable foresight into the market, others have impeccable communication skills, and some know how to eloquently time, scope, and schedule complex operations. Quite rare is the person that can do all three. So what does this have to do with design? Well, let’s look at how design fits into this triumvirate.

Most companies consider design part of the implementation phase: a step in the process of getting things done (as illustrated above). Assembly line design like this can help the usability and visceral aspects of a product (i.e. “make it pretty”) but a large amount of design’s potential value is left on the table.

Companies that recognize the strategic value of design know the power of design lies in communication. These companies and their processes include designers and design artifacts (prototypes, mock-ups, concept models) when communicating or developing a vision (as illustrated below). Design artifacts can help an individual, team, or an entire organization understand something visionary. They can also focus a strategy through detailed visualizations of synergy and discord.

If you want design to have a strategic role in your organization- find an opportunity where design can be used for real communication and not mere styling. Once your clients see how design performs in this role, their perception of design’s value will shift dramatically.