Why Startups Need Design Co-Founders

Design co-founders are getting a lot of love in the startup scene as of late. They are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but instead critical to the success of many companies. If you’re a technical co-founder, here’s some thoughts on why you would want a designer on your founding team.

Design isn’t just pixels or aesthetics. As Designer Fund notes:

“We mean an honest-to-goodness, experienced, craft-driven, product-focused, reflective practitioner who has learned to design by designing, who views design as a way of thinking about solving hard problems and is capable of building usable products with more than just beautiful aesthetics.”

A decent designer can help you solve tough communication problems, simplify the user experience and make your product a real joy to use.

  1. User experience shouldn’t be a second class citizen. Yes, you can get away with programmer interfaces & user flows but that’s not a great strategy. The difference between good and great? Crickets or users raving to their friends and followers.

  2. A designer adds value during your MVP stage. Before you write a single line of code, paper mock ups and simple click prototypes can help you to quickly iterate through ideas, solve some of your broader questions, and most importantly, help you start the customer development process. A few nice screenshots can go a long way.

  3. Adding a designer to your team over an additional engineer means you’ll have to focus on the features that are most important. You’ll also have a much simpler product (which is a really good thing).

Adding a designer to your founding team is about more than making your app or site look good (though it’ll certainly help in this area). Great design is problem solving. It just happens more on the customer facing side than the API & backend side.