A Fast Company article recently wreaked havoc in the design world, quite understandably. John Maeda, celebrated product designer, claimed ‘Design is just not that important.’ Yes, you read it correctly. John, who has been an advocate of design-led companies for so many years. Well, we believe the article went a step further just for the sake of being click-baity. Not to say that we entirely agree with John on everything he said.
If you strip John’s views of their controversial wording, they make sense. Design, for long existed in a silo. Designers were loved, frowned upon, trusted and loathed! To do the work that’s been asked of them, and slowly, to give direction to entire products and companies.
Today we have products catering to almost every niche and whim of the human mind. I don’t agree with his point that tech people are in-charge of the world, but it is a no-brainer that the objective is to build products that solve people’s problems. And to some degree, creating solutions to the problems people don’t know they have.
John argues, to successfully do that, designers need to act as supporting cast to the heroes who are developers and PMs. I think there are no heroes today. We have evolved to a point where fields don’t work individually. This is reminiscent of how science fields used to earlier operate under boundaries.
Today, an archaeological discovery is dissected not just by, well, archaeologists, but by historians, biologists and techies as well. To build great products, PMs, developers, designers and all need to be supporting players. Any of these, who strives to be the hero, ends up skewing the work. In one of our recent interviews with a product manager of India’s leading online food-delivery marketplaces, the key takeaway was: Collaboration, at scale, drives building of great products.
We need to evolve from building egos to building products.