“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

Steve Job’s quote, “Design is how it works,” is one that most companies forget and instead focus on the look and feel.

Today, every company claims to focus on digital transformation and enhancing user experience is an essential goal. However, companies tend to confuse design and experience with visual design.

Design is how it works or does not work:

For example, a cable company assembles and sends out a slim self-installation kit. But nothing works as advertised and one has to call and spend an hour on something that should not require a call and even if it involves a call should not be more than 5-minutes. So, a futuristic sounding brand name, cutting edge positioning, and slim packaging, the cable box is still ugly, the service still sucks, and process (out of the box or with human support) don’t work well.  The company fails the basic tenets of what good design is all about.

(Of course, pleasing colors, a good color palette, and eye-pleasing packing are good, but they are not substitutes for the synergy of good form and function.)

Or let’s delve into a positive example of good design. Ikea. While many other firms try the do-it-yourself model, Ikea is a multi-billion-dollar global giant because the pieces fit perfectly, the components work as advertised, instructions are good enough for a sixth grader, and you don’t need special tools. That is design at its best – even with a cheap price tag.

So, the next time the subject of design comes up at your firm, do not start with the paint job.  Focus on outcomes, usability, and functionality: inherently good design first and foremost intrinsic.

Without ease of use and seamless flow, focusing on how it looks is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. Without intrinsic excellence, focusing on external façade is futile and will lead to inevitable failure. It bears repeating, “Design is how it works.”


What is your approach to design in your company? What mistakes do you see teams make consistently in today’s high stakes design sweepstakes?  Please share your thoughts.


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