Design-Driven Companies

What does it mean to be a design driven company?  Every company has someone doing design, so why aren’t they ‘design-driven’?  Does “Design” and “Usability” mean the same thing?  Intuit considered themselves a usability-first company in their products, but I would say (after working their for a year) that they were downright hostile to designers.  This may be where Nielsen and Norman are on opposite sides of the fence. (Explanation of that another day)

In general, I am talking about the factors that make a company lovable.  This is when a customers says, “I love this, I am never going to leave it.”  The most popular of these companies is Apple.  They have garnered some of the most fanatical loyalty of any company.  I was wondering what other companies do this and why they are different than their competition.

This morning, Katie was struggling with Quicken.  It’s certainly better than Microsoft Money, but it still stinks.  I asked, “Can you show me a chart of our grocery bills for the last year?”  She really struggled to figure it out.  Mint, by comparrison, doesn’t do nearly as much as Quicken.  However, ask anyone who uses Mint and they will literally “light-up”!  Their eyes will glow and they will use the word Love.  Look at their website.  It has a different feel than the Quicken or MS Money alternatives, even though those other ones are professionally designed.

I use BlueHost for the blog and MediaTemple for work.  Bluehost is fine.  I am trained in systems administration, so their techie focus works fine for me.  However, I always love when I have to use the MediaTemple system.  It does the exact same thing as BlueHost.  Maybe even a little less.  However, the design is gorgeous.  I love how it looks.  My emotional side feels more loyalty to MediaTemple than my analytical side feels loyalty to Bluehost.  Besides that, MediaTemple has much better uptime stats.  It’s twice as much money, so maybe that is par for the course.

A long time ago, I chose TargetProcess as our work tracking tool at work.  I think this was a mistake.  FogBugz is a beautiful application that pays special attention to design.  It was created by Joel Spolsky, who is well known in the industry for this kind of design emphasis.  People who use FogBugz are more likely to use the word Love than I am about TargetProcess.  Don’t get me wrong, TP is a decent tool, but it’s just not the same.

OK, so this is biased.  Still, the Marketo product is design focused in a way that competition just isn’t.  It’s in the DNA of the company.  The company is pretty new, so alot can still happen, but I believe we are on the design-driven track.

Trader Joes and Whole Foods are two sides of a coin, but both garner loyalty far above Safeways.

What other companies are like this?  What company would you use the word “Love” in your description?


2 responses to “Design-Driven Companies”

  1. James Avatar


    A 10 minute demo of a great designer’s mockup and personal ideas on the direction of an app is worth 10 hours of product meetings.

  2. ayana Avatar

    Ayana Sumikawa in Japan

Whatya think?

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