Dec 15, 2022

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The Three Types of Design Every Startup Needs

The Three Types of Design Every Startup Needs

The Three Types of Design Every Startup Needs

The Three Types of Design Every Startup Needs

7 mins read

The Three Types of Design Every Startup Needs

Introduction

‍Except you or one of your co-founders has extensive design experience, there’ll come a point in your startup’s journey where you realize a crucial need for design but might not know where to start. If that sounds like you, keep reading and I’ll share some thoughts that can help you identify a starting point.

Regardless of your type of business, you’re most likely going to need these 3 categories of design; product design, brand design, and marketing design. Based on the nature of your business; whether you’re B2B, B2C etc, you might spend more time one or some of these areas. Eventually, you’ll need to do all of them. So let’s get into it.

1. Brand design

Brand is a big world with many components. However, most of it boils down to three things; brand strategy, visual identity design and your company’s culture. Brand strategy is where you define all the invisible stuff like your positioning in the market, your brand promise, your values, personality, etc. Your visual identity is where you create a tangible expression of some of this invisible stuff. It will include things like your logo, color scheme, typography, etc. Your company culture will ideally be the day-to-day implementation of all other parts of your brand strategy that can’t be captured in your visual identity.  That last bit is crucial and probably deserves an article of its own. So let’s keep moving.

Because of the fast-moving nature of startups, young startups may not spend too much time on brand strategy or visual identity design. Your obsession is (and should be) with the product you’re building and to a large extent, your approach to building said product (because that defines part of your culture). And you will continue to operate like this until you get to some semblance of product-market fit or until you raise your first round. Whichever comes first. Then and only then will a brand strategy and visual identity design become very important. Let’s look at those two scenarios closely.


(Scenario One)

You have reached product-market fit (PMF).

Defining PMF is a dicey maneuver. But the components that I think are relevant in this context are as follows; you have identified a core audience, identified a problem they have, create a solution, identified a way to communicate your solution effectively and (paid) demand is growing for your solution. Once you have these four things, you may be ready to start your branding process. You have all the ingredients to define your positioning; make a relevant brand promise, create an effective brand positioning and define a personality that will resonate with your market. Essentially you have the building blocks of your brand strategy and with this, you can go the whole nine yards.


(Scenario Two)

You have raised a sizeable seed round.

This is the more likely scenario and it goes something like this. You have built an MVP, you have a few customers, and you are nowhere near PMF but some investors/VCs believe in your vision and are willing to fund that vision. It then becomes necessary for you to improve your brand’s image after your raise. At this point, you do not have all the ingredients you need to build a solid brand strategy because your business and even your market will change so many more times in the near future. But you still need to do something so this begs the question, how do you approach brand design then?

In a scenario like this, you’re most likely to start with a  solid visual identity design. This effort still needs to be grounded in something. So you might do some lightweight strategy relying on signals like the overall brand direction of the industry you’re in, some hypothesis drawn from your current cohort of customers, and the founding team’s intuition about how they want to position the business. This will give you enough to put together a solid visual identity for your early-stage startup.

There are also cases where the maturity of the product will force the need for a visual identity language for your business. Especially if you’re a B2C player getting into a very active category, your product's user experience and interface will be an important part of your strategy. And it is often difficult to get the user interface of your product right and keep things consistent without having an underlying visual language to guide and tie everything together.

With that said, your brand is going to evolve over time, no matter what. However, it will change much quicker in the earlier stages than in the latter stages. So at the start, you may only have to do the barest minimum to help you make progress. And most times that comes down to a solid visual identity design.


2. Product Design

Product design; Your product (or service) is the meat of your entire existence. It is the thing you’re trying to get out there and is 99.9% of the time where you’ll start from. Everything you’ll be doing in both brand and marketing design is meant to enable the distribution and adoption of your product. Just like brand, product is also a very vast world with many moving parts. But I’ll like to mention three things, and focus on only two. First product strategy; this bit seeks to answer some questions like what you’ll build, what you won’t build, when to build it, how much of it you build at what time, etc. It is the foundation for the next two things that we’ll spend more time on in this section; user experience designer (UX) & user interface design (UI).

User Experience (UX)

User experience design is exactly what it says. It is the design of your user’s experience as they interact with your product or service. It dictates what steps they’ll go through to get to their desired outcome, the order in which they’ll take those steps, what information they’ll see along the way, what decisions are available to them at each stage, etc. This is probably one of the most crucial activities for your business. No matter where you are in your startup’s journey you should be obsessed with UX design. This is one of those things that everyone in your team will need a basic understanding of, even if you’re going to hire a specialist. It sits at the core of the success of your product and shouldn’t, in my opinion, be treated in a hands-off manner. Maybe we’ll do another article on UX design but for now, there are a ton of resources out there that you can delve into.

User Interface (UI)

Your user interface is the visual interface with which your users will interact. All your decisions during your UX design phase will come to life here. If UX is the skeleton of your product, then UI is the skin on top of that. Because of the visual nature of UI design, it is also a good opportunity to showcase a little bit of your brand's personality as expressed through your visual identity design language. If ever in doubt, bias toward optimizing the user experience for your product/service. Your UI design should be done in service of your UX.


2. Marketing Design

One of the key activities for your early-stage startup is distribution. How do you get this great and useful product that you’ve built in front of the right people? And in startup land, a lot of battles are won or lost in the arena of distribution. Marketing is one of the core components in distribution and marketing itself can be broken down into a few elements. One of which is media. Your media will typically consist of video, audio, images and graphics and should be heavily influenced by your brand identity design if done right. As far as design is concerned the most relevant thing here is your graphics. You may have to desi graphics for your social media marketing & other online advertisement efforts, pitch decks & other sales materials for your sales team/conferences, graphics for your emails/newsletters, graphics for your blog posts & other parts of your website. In case your business will be attending physical events, you’ll have to design things like pull-up banners, stickers, other general souvenirs and even some brochures. Anything that helps you spread the word about your product or business can be put under the umbrella of marketing design.


Conclusion

So which of these things should you focus on as a start-up? It depends. Popular opinion is that pre-product marketing fit, your entire focus should be on the product and anything it takes to make it a useful solution to your customers, and the type of design that is at the core of that process is UI/UX or product design. That’s often good advice for most startups. If however there’s a chance that you need to spread the word about your product in the very early stages before product marketing fit then you might need to consider a cross-section of brand, product and marketing design.

Introduction

‍Except you or one of your co-founders has extensive design experience, there’ll come a point in your startup’s journey where you realize a crucial need for design but might not know where to start. If that sounds like you, keep reading and I’ll share some thoughts that can help you identify a starting point.

Regardless of your type of business, you’re most likely going to need these 3 categories of design; product design, brand design, and marketing design. Based on the nature of your business; whether you’re B2B, B2C etc, you might spend more time one or some of these areas. Eventually, you’ll need to do all of them. So let’s get into it.

1. Brand design

Brand is a big world with many components. However, most of it boils down to three things; brand strategy, visual identity design and your company’s culture. Brand strategy is where you define all the invisible stuff like your positioning in the market, your brand promise, your values, personality, etc. Your visual identity is where you create a tangible expression of some of this invisible stuff. It will include things like your logo, color scheme, typography, etc. Your company culture will ideally be the day-to-day implementation of all other parts of your brand strategy that can’t be captured in your visual identity.  That last bit is crucial and probably deserves an article of its own. So let’s keep moving.

Because of the fast-moving nature of startups, young startups may not spend too much time on brand strategy or visual identity design. Your obsession is (and should be) with the product you’re building and to a large extent, your approach to building said product (because that defines part of your culture). And you will continue to operate like this until you get to some semblance of product-market fit or until you raise your first round. Whichever comes first. Then and only then will a brand strategy and visual identity design become very important. Let’s look at those two scenarios closely.


(Scenario One)

You have reached product-market fit (PMF).

Defining PMF is a dicey maneuver. But the components that I think are relevant in this context are as follows; you have identified a core audience, identified a problem they have, create a solution, identified a way to communicate your solution effectively and (paid) demand is growing for your solution. Once you have these four things, you may be ready to start your branding process. You have all the ingredients to define your positioning; make a relevant brand promise, create an effective brand positioning and define a personality that will resonate with your market. Essentially you have the building blocks of your brand strategy and with this, you can go the whole nine yards.


(Scenario Two)

You have raised a sizeable seed round.

This is the more likely scenario and it goes something like this. You have built an MVP, you have a few customers, and you are nowhere near PMF but some investors/VCs believe in your vision and are willing to fund that vision. It then becomes necessary for you to improve your brand’s image after your raise. At this point, you do not have all the ingredients you need to build a solid brand strategy because your business and even your market will change so many more times in the near future. But you still need to do something so this begs the question, how do you approach brand design then?

In a scenario like this, you’re most likely to start with a  solid visual identity design. This effort still needs to be grounded in something. So you might do some lightweight strategy relying on signals like the overall brand direction of the industry you’re in, some hypothesis drawn from your current cohort of customers, and the founding team’s intuition about how they want to position the business. This will give you enough to put together a solid visual identity for your early-stage startup.

There are also cases where the maturity of the product will force the need for a visual identity language for your business. Especially if you’re a B2C player getting into a very active category, your product's user experience and interface will be an important part of your strategy. And it is often difficult to get the user interface of your product right and keep things consistent without having an underlying visual language to guide and tie everything together.

With that said, your brand is going to evolve over time, no matter what. However, it will change much quicker in the earlier stages than in the latter stages. So at the start, you may only have to do the barest minimum to help you make progress. And most times that comes down to a solid visual identity design.


2. Product Design

Product design; Your product (or service) is the meat of your entire existence. It is the thing you’re trying to get out there and is 99.9% of the time where you’ll start from. Everything you’ll be doing in both brand and marketing design is meant to enable the distribution and adoption of your product. Just like brand, product is also a very vast world with many moving parts. But I’ll like to mention three things, and focus on only two. First product strategy; this bit seeks to answer some questions like what you’ll build, what you won’t build, when to build it, how much of it you build at what time, etc. It is the foundation for the next two things that we’ll spend more time on in this section; user experience designer (UX) & user interface design (UI).

User Experience (UX)

User experience design is exactly what it says. It is the design of your user’s experience as they interact with your product or service. It dictates what steps they’ll go through to get to their desired outcome, the order in which they’ll take those steps, what information they’ll see along the way, what decisions are available to them at each stage, etc. This is probably one of the most crucial activities for your business. No matter where you are in your startup’s journey you should be obsessed with UX design. This is one of those things that everyone in your team will need a basic understanding of, even if you’re going to hire a specialist. It sits at the core of the success of your product and shouldn’t, in my opinion, be treated in a hands-off manner. Maybe we’ll do another article on UX design but for now, there are a ton of resources out there that you can delve into.

User Interface (UI)

Your user interface is the visual interface with which your users will interact. All your decisions during your UX design phase will come to life here. If UX is the skeleton of your product, then UI is the skin on top of that. Because of the visual nature of UI design, it is also a good opportunity to showcase a little bit of your brand's personality as expressed through your visual identity design language. If ever in doubt, bias toward optimizing the user experience for your product/service. Your UI design should be done in service of your UX.


2. Marketing Design

One of the key activities for your early-stage startup is distribution. How do you get this great and useful product that you’ve built in front of the right people? And in startup land, a lot of battles are won or lost in the arena of distribution. Marketing is one of the core components in distribution and marketing itself can be broken down into a few elements. One of which is media. Your media will typically consist of video, audio, images and graphics and should be heavily influenced by your brand identity design if done right. As far as design is concerned the most relevant thing here is your graphics. You may have to desi graphics for your social media marketing & other online advertisement efforts, pitch decks & other sales materials for your sales team/conferences, graphics for your emails/newsletters, graphics for your blog posts & other parts of your website. In case your business will be attending physical events, you’ll have to design things like pull-up banners, stickers, other general souvenirs and even some brochures. Anything that helps you spread the word about your product or business can be put under the umbrella of marketing design.


Conclusion

So which of these things should you focus on as a start-up? It depends. Popular opinion is that pre-product marketing fit, your entire focus should be on the product and anything it takes to make it a useful solution to your customers, and the type of design that is at the core of that process is UI/UX or product design. That’s often good advice for most startups. If however there’s a chance that you need to spread the word about your product in the very early stages before product marketing fit then you might need to consider a cross-section of brand, product and marketing design.

Let’s work together

Let’s work together

Leverage the speed of

specialised design teams without all the grunt work.

Leverage the speed of

specialised design teams without all the grunt work.

Leverage the speed of

specialised design teams without all the grunt work.

Leverage the speed of

specialised design teams without all the grunt work.

Keep Exploring...

Copyright 2023

Keep Exploring...

Copyright 2023

Keep Exploring...

Copyright 2023

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Creative

Media

Labs

Technology

Socials

Email

info@gmail.com