Recently, I was asked why I started my own business. Without hesitation, I replied, “to get a seat at the table.” Here’s what that means, and why it’s important.
Ever since college, I’d always envisioned running my own design firm. After 12 years working at agency and in-house design jobs, I felt I’d finally reached an age and a point in my career that I could start my own business and have clients take my expertise seriously.
More importantly, I needed to tear down the wall separating me from the clients.
A Seat at the Table
You see, when working at agency or in-house jobs, it’s difficult for designers to get a seat at the table with clients. Those seats are occupied by the suits—the C-level execs, managers, account reps, and directors—none of whom are actually doing the design work itself.
That’s unfortunate because design is about how things work, not just how they look, so excluding designers from strategic decisions prevents clients from getting the most out of what they’re paying for. It relegates designers to a “make it pretty” role rather than a “make it work better” one.
By providing design consulting services directly to my own clients, I’m guaranteed a seat at the table with clients and can make a positive impact on their business through design strategy.
What is Design Strategy?
Design strategy is the methodology behind solutions-based problem solving. Think of it as a process comprised of knowledge, expertise, research, testing, and diagnosis used by designers to plan how to solve a problem.
Every design problem is unique. There are certainly recurring problems commonly found in similar projects—for example, navigation patterns in menu systems—but every client has different goals, different challenges, and different needs, so there’s rarely a good one-size-fits-all solution to a design problem. That’s why it’s so important to first meticulously define the problem and then methodically consider every aspect of the problem when crafting a solution.
Far too often, people think designers just start with a blank page and jump headfirst into design, arranging elements into something pretty. That may be the case on a stand-alone visual execution, but that is never the case with something as complex as a website/app or brand. With so many variables to consider, proper strategic planning is required in order to craft effective design solutions to complex digital products.
So that’s why I started my own business. To ensure my clients get proper strategic planning for their websites, mobile apps, and brands—because design strategy is vitally important to successful digital product design.
I am a Digital Product Consultant helping organizations launch websites, apps, and brands. I discuss these and other topics my blog, and publish a quarterly “no-bullshit” email newsletter, so please subscribe for updates!