Where business fits in design education, how innovators can thrive in corporate environments, and WTF are Digitally Native Vertical Brands?
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May 2021
Issue 9
Welcome to Issue 9 of Designers in Business.

There are many factors that can limit a designer's ability to enact change or influence strategic business decisions, particularly in corporate environments.

It's even more challenging for newer disciplines like Content Design. Content specialists offer incredible business value when properly integrated into product teams and processes. In this edition we hear practical advice on how content design can maximise it's impact, and how innovators from any background can thrive in corporate life.

I hope you enjoy both these impact focused choices as well as the usual mix of practical tips, upcoming events and brilliant folks to follow. As always, if you enjoy the content in this issue, feel free reach out to the creators to let them know.

See you next month.

Tom Prior
Curator of Designers in Business
The talks
How to maximize the impact of content design
Talk by Jonathon Colman at DesignOps Summit 2020

I'm not a content designer, but I am an enormous fan of the discipline. Over the last few years I've worked with incredible content designers and strategists whose early involvement in projects has made for more efficient, higher quality work. They've also saved businesses buckets of time and money in the process. But content designers can often struggle to highlight their value and secure investment to grow their teams.

This excellent talk from Jonathon Colman explores the frustrations in depth, offering practical ways to break through as a content designer. Jonathon's priority ranking system is a particularly neat way to ensure small teams (or teams of one) get the opportunity to find focus, highlighting their value by not spreading themselves too thinly.
Screengrab from a talk by Jonathon Colman at DesignOps Summit 2020
Pirates In The Navy: How Innovators Can Thrive In Corporate Environments
Talk by Tendayi Viki at Innov8rs Conference – Helsinki

Ever felt like an innovation rebel in your organisation? Maybe you've tried to push the boundaries when it comes to product design vision, but faced obstacles along the way.

If that sounds familiar, Tendayi Viki explores ways to overcome the barriers that can stifle innovators: avoid innovation theatre, start small to build trust, and seek out early adopters.
Screengrab from a talk by Tendayi Viki at Innov8rs Conference
The long read
Why are Digitally Native Brands Revolutionizing Retail, and Why No Legacy Brand is Safe
By Nate Poulin

Digitally Native Vertical Brands. The term is a mouthful. But it's worth getting past the name as this disruptive business model represents a glowing opportunity for designers.

DNVBs are typically direct to consumer (DTC) brands who own every part of the product design, manufacturing, ordering, delivery and after care experience (often called the 'Value Chain'). They typically have incredible attention to detail and great user experience at the heart of their value proposition. Think Casper Mattresses, Away Suitcases, or Warby Parker glasses.

In this excellent primer Nate Poulin thoughtfully covers the origin, business models and potential long term impact of DNVBs.
Screenshot of Nate Poulin's article on Digitally Native Vertical Brands
The sources
Our monthly spotlight on the people and organisations providing great business content on the regular. Ones to follow, bookmark, and support.
Lex Roman
If you're curious about Growth Design, you should follow Lex Roman. Lex helps run growthdesigners.co, a fantastic resource to learn about the discipline and meet fellow practitioners.
Lex Roman logo
Connecting ethics to practical business decision-making can be challenging. Ethical Systems is a wonderful resource aimed at making academic research accessible (and applicable) to business.
Ethical Systems logo and banner
I've been bookmarking a lot of Scott's Tweets of late. His recent takes on design's place in business are thought provoking and his regular blog posts are always a must read.
Photograph of Scott Berkun
The language

These three acronyms are commonly used when it comes to understanding the size of business's potential market.

TAM stands for Total Addressable Market: the total market size with potential demand for a particular product or service.

SAM stands for Serviceable Available Market. This is the segment of the TAM a business could realistically access based on their business model, geography, or product targeting.

Finally, SOM stands for Serviceable Obtainable Market. This is the market share of the SAM a business could realistically acquire given their targets and growth potential.
The Podcasts
Teaching the Business of Design
Podcast interview with Abby Guido for The Futur

Abby Guido is an assistant professor of graphic and interactive design at Tyler School of Art and Architecture. As an MBA graduate and design practice owner she's uniquely placed to discuss how design education can better prepare students for the realities of the business marketplace. In this interview with Chris Do she highlights design's education blind spots and the importance of an attention grabbing design portfolio.
Screenshot of podcast player from interview with Abby Guido about teaching the business of design
The panel
Meet Your New Customer: The Planet
Panel hosted by frog NYC

This panel's framing of planet as 'customer' caught my eye this month. A pragmatic discussion, Kaave Pour particularly encourages us to view small steps as real progress, setting more achievable business goals for designers over seeking perfect solutions to a complex challenge.
Screenshot of panel titled Meet Your New Customer: The Planet
The quote
“Biggest design lesson? That the vast majority / most consequential part of the user experience often depends on decisions made by people without “design” in their job titles.

Influencing those decisions is how you maximize your impact.
The practical tips
Decks can be an essential part of corporate life. Whether presented in-person or shared with wider groups, structuring a compelling story can make or break design presentations to business peers. In this episode from Christine Liu's excellent video series for HBR, she explores the many ways you can ensure your next presentation hits all the right notes.
Screenshot of a video about designing decks by Christine Liu
The events
I'm thrilled to be part of the line-up for this year's UX Fest conference, alongside some names you'll definitely recognise from previous editions of this newsletter.

I'm speaking as part of the Festival's 'Strategy and Business' day. I'll be sharing simple, practical ways designers can become more confident in business.

Tickets for the Conference (which starts 1st June), Festival and Masterclasses are still available and you can grab them with a 10% discount using this link.
Screenshot from talk promotion advert for UX Fest
I've really enjoyed past events from Designer Fund, and regularly share their excellent 20 Levers Framework for measuring the business impact of design.

Their next virtual event on Friday 4th June features case studies exploring how designing products for creators delivered positive business outcomes for their brands.
Advert for Design for Business Impact event
The explainer
What is Business Design?
Article by Tsukasa Tanimoto

I've been searching for a comprehensive primer on the role of Business Designers for a while. This essay in a brilliant series from Tsukasa Tanimoto does the job wonderfully.

It starts with a simple role definition: "business design applies design and design thinking to business problems with the objective of bringing innovation to life". Making use of excellent diagrams and visualisations, Tsukasa goes on to highlight the activities and value of a Business Designer at familiar stages in our design process. 
Breakdown of the differences between business designers and management consultants
Are you enjoying Designers in Business? Know someone who might be starting their own journey to business confidence?

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Thanks! Tom - Curator of Designers in Business
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