Questioning Design-driven Products

This excellent essay by Mills Baker questions the premium placed on designer-driven products over the past year or two. It cites Dropbox’s Carousel and Facebook’s Paper in particular for delivering high touch design solutions that have managed to achieve only poor adoption rates.

And if our best designers, ensconced in their labs with world-class teams, cannot reliably produce successful products, we should admit to ourselves that perhaps so-called ‘design science’ remains much less developed than computer science, and that we’d do well to stay humble despite our rising stature. Design’s new prominence means that design’s failures have ever-greater visibility.

To be sure, Baker’s view is a bit fatalistic; he equates a handful of high profile failures in which high profile designers figured prominently with virtual bankruptcy for the notion of design-led product development. Meanwhile, not only do countless products that are not design-driven fail every day without much notice, but plenty of design-driven products at smaller scales than Carousel and Paper actually manage to thrive.

Nevertheless, the aim of the article seems to be to offer a bit of a reality check on the dream of a technology products industry led by designers, and in that at least, it’s worthwhile. It’s also very well written. Read the article here.


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