Why Designers Belong on Your Founding Team

People thought I was crazy starting Rivet & Sway with a Design Team.  Seriously, when I told potential investors that employee #3Designer and #4 would be a Creative Director and Graphics Designer, they just laughed.  I needed a technologist as part of the Founding Team, not a designer. In fact, I recall receiving affirmation on my design direction from only 1 of the almost 30 investors that I met with in the early stages.  I’m certain that number would be different today…but just one.

So why lead with a Design Team?  Honestly, it’s all about putting yourself in the best position to create that absolute best customer experience possible.  Delivering an experience that truly surprises and delights customers and causes them to have a positive, emotional reaction with your company is what will create sustainable value over time.  I felt that hiring folks that truly understood design and how the slightest tweaks in design can impact the customer experience was well worth the gamble. Whether it was the design of the Rivet & Sway frames, our website, our content, our packaging experience or our creative, we wanted each touchpoint to deliver the ultimate customer experience.

Yes, it’s still all about technology and figuring out how technology can improve our lives. For sure, no questions asked. But it’s also about developing deep emotional connections with customers.  These deep connections will drive word-of-mouth (and lower marketing costs), higher conversion rates, higher average order values and much larger lifetime values.  And you’ll also find that customers are more than willing to pay a premium price for a phenomenal customer experience that actually invokes a positive emotion.

But leading with a Design Team certainly wasn’t easy.  It was a transition for me especially.  Creative folks think a bit differently, they’re perfectionist and they’re not trained to move at break neck startup speed. It’s against their inherent nature.  But work through the initial transition issues, learn to embrace your Design Team’s non-linear way of thinking, understand how they execute, and you’ll find your product or service truly coming to life.  And more importantly, you’ll find your customers singing your praises.

Do I think that designers belong on every founding Team?  No.  It completely depends on your target audience, the product or services you’re creating, and your overall business strategy.  But if you truly believe that the customer experience is a vital part of your overall growth strategy, then you absolutely need to consider hiring a designer in the early stages.

Questions, Comments, Concerns?  Let me know.


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