D + B School

“Design + Business” is a school of thought that hits at the heart of an identity crisis that I have personally struggled with: should I design or should I study finance/revenue and build a business. I find my self struggling to balance between the two as I work on startups, solve problems, build apps or productize ideas.  Form vs function is often conflicting in my mind…

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a class offered at Stanford by David Kelley, founder of design powerhouse IDEO, that I realized that “D” schools and “B” schools should not be treated as mutually exclusive in entrepreneurship or in problem solving.  In fact, the characteristics of each are symbiotic and should be embraced in popular education as a way to solve problems with maximum efficiency.

At the intersection of this thinking is the concept of “design as a strategy”…  effectively identifying problems and efficient solutions with an intended strategic purpose.

This approach enables innovation or disruptive businesses to foster or percolate from within a dynamic environment, as evident with nearly every company that has emerged on the stage (Apple, Google, HP, Microsoft, Groupon, etc).  Just reflect on all the companies that have emerged and how design strategy was applied.


Effective use of D+B can be seen on a small scale, within the startup community, via successful prototypes, effective UI, choice of typography, iconography, minimally viable products (MVP), etc..  Users are more likely to use the product, where in many cases good traction replaces the hockey stick revenue growth of yesterday.  Investors become more likely to participate, instilling confidence in the team, product and direction through a proper balance of form and function.

Take this poignant reflection by Naval Ravikant, regarding raising capital

“You definitely want to have some kind of demo of the product.  People are very very very visual.  Design almost matters more than functionality. Something that looks good will get you further than something that actually works well, which is ironic.  I shouldn’t be admitting that.”

Yes, design is important – you have a very short time to capture attention.  And even less the second time around.

I suggest going forward that more people embrace both sides when creating startups and building products.  Learn from people like Jim Patell, Patrick Whitney, Tom PetersSara L. Beckman and of course David Kelley.

My personal goal is to obtain a graduate degree in visual design to further my career and to gain a better understanding of how to solve problems.




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