4 reasons why design conquers Silicon Valley

Original author: John Brownlee
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Is Design Importing in the Valley? John Maeda, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers venture capital fund, is sure yes. During a presentation at South by Southwest 2015, he stated that the Valley is not just starting to take this more seriously, but is being captured by the design. Here are four reasons why the most successful technology companies of the future will be essentially design ones.

Moore's Law Now Is Not Enough

Since the acquisition of Frog’s Flextronics in 2004, the past decade has seen a growing number of cases where technology companies bought creatives. For example, Google now owns industrial design companies, and Facebook owns software and design sofa, Teehan + Lax, and Hot Studio. And this is gaining a critical mass: since 2010, 27 startups, among which the founders were designers, were bought by large IT companies, and last year six venture capital funds took designers to their teams for the first time.

According to Maeda, this trend will continue, because "Moore’s law is now not enough for the path to a happier consumer." For years, the solution to every problem in IT was to use a more powerful chip. The answer now was design, not silicon. As an example, you can take the new MacBook: in terms of performance, it is inferior to the old ones, but the industrial design makes it more attractive from other points of view, from laconic connections to portability that does not require effort.

Design is now taken first and not last

They didn’t just spend more money on design, they began to approach it differently. Previously, technology companies saw it as what they add to the product at the very end (for example, a standard system unit into which you can push a computer), but more often the most high-profile companies are those that deal with it from the very beginning, like Nest with their smart thermostats.

The happy marriage of technology and design began long before the boom of the Valley. Take, for example, “Chair Number 14” by Michael Thonet, also known as the “Vienna Chair”. Created in 1859, it was designed so that exactly 36 chairs were placed in one meter container in a disassembled state. This spawned the assembly of furniture at the place of use, making it possible to cheaply make chairs in Eastern Europe, and then send it to faraway places like New York, keeping prices low. More than 50 million of these chairs have been sold since 1859, which would not have been possible if it had not been for the good design thinking that influenced the production process.

“In order to achieve heights in design, you need both business skills to effectively invest in design and the corresponding technical side to achieve productivity,” said Maeda. Letting the design do business behind it was not invented by Apple. The best companies have always dealt with this, and IT has only now reached the realization of this.

Technology is now not only for techies

There was a time when IT companies did not have to worry about design because their audience was the same techies as themselves. Not only is this not the case now, so now the prevalence of technology has also made UI / UX more important than ever. In the 80s and 90s, a person could encounter an uncomfortable interface a couple of times a day, and now we check our smartphones hundreds of times a day, and the amount of discomfort can discourage the user from any desire to use the product.

Why designers matter to startups

Designers, says Maeda, are as important to startups as they are to large companies. In startups, the first employees are very influential in corporate culture, so attracting them right away is very important. And startups are increasingly paying attention to this fact: now the ratio of designers and programmers in startups is about 1: 4. According to partner Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, earlier this ratio was closer to 1:15 or even 1:30.

So designers can influence the company from scratch. But Maeda sees another trend. Increasingly, companies are hiring designers for leadership positions, which allows ideas to influence them from top to bottom. Take only Nike, where the designer took the place of CEO.

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