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Org Design for Design Orgs by Peter Merholz, Kristin Skinner

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Chapter 2. Realizing the Potential of Design

COMPANIES INVEST IN DESIGN in order to manage the software-driven complexity of their businesses. There’s a sense that design makes things “better,” by making them more attractive, more desirable, and easier to use. However, many, and probably most, of the people responsible for bringing design into their organizations have only a rudimentary understanding of what it can deliver. They perceive design primarily as aesthetics, styling, and appearances.

We ended the last chapter with a Steve Jobs quote about design, so let’s begin this one with perhaps his most famous statement on the matter:

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer—that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.[6]

Jobs’ definition is inspiring, but hard to make actionable. For our purposes, we prefer the definition from noted user experience expert Jared Spool, who wrote, “Design is the rendering of intent.” He continues, “The designer imagines an outcome and puts forth activities to make that outcome real.”[7] This might seem vague or abstract, but that’s purposeful—it points out that “design” is happening all the time, in a variety of contexts, whether or not we think of it as that. For a company to better deliver on its own intentions, it benefits from incorporating mindful design ...

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