An interview with The Optimal Path that provide a sharp reminder of why designers should improve our business confidence
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Issue 019

Erika Hall on The Optimal Path Podcast

A thoughtfully navigated conversation that unpacks the complicated relationship between business and design.
When I need a sharp perspective on the obstacles design must overcome in the pursuit of true business impact, Erika's Hall's no-nonsense words of wisdom are often the perfect tonic.

I recently discovered a new interview with Erika, expertly hosted by Ash Oliver (UX Designer and Design Advocate at Maze) for The Optimal Path Podcast.

In it, Erika gets to the heart of mindsets and limiting beliefs that can stifle design's ability to influence business decision-making.

A major culprit? Ego.

A particularly problematic trait is design's coupling of satisfaction with personal expression. Our discipline's origins from art can lead to some troublesome beliefs, often exacerbated by educators and design leaders.

"You're not Paul Rand!" Erika exclaims.

It's a refrain I'll recall the next time I fall foul of setting unrealistic expectations for my practice.
Screenshot from The Optimal Path Podcast, featuring an interview with Erika Hall from Mule Design Studio
Another topic of this conversation is design's uncomfortable associations with commerce, and how to better assess the virtues of the business model behind the organisation you're engaging with.

Using the example of restaurants (a world I share Erika's fondness for), Erika demonstrates how we can compare two tech-driven business models.

Point-of-sale (POS) systems and gig economy delivery services both have business models within this industry which we can interrogate by asking better questions, such as:

  • Is this an equal relationship?
  • Is success mutually tied?
  • Is anyone exploited in this business model?

A key takeaway? Understanding business models is well within the gift of most designers, many of whom deal with more novel complexities daily.

Business confidence can grow when designers grasp the underlying economic mechanics they are a part of. If you're business model curious, resources such as the Business Model Navigator are a great place to start.
If you loved this podcast as much as I did, you might also enjoy my own interview with Martyn Reding, which touches on a few of the same topics.

Thanks again for subscribing - please
get in touch if you have any feedback or suggestions for future topics.

Finally, if you found the content shared in this newsletter useful, why not give a shout-out to the creator? Their generosity and knowledge helps build our confidence in business together.

Tom Prior
Curator of Designers in Business  |
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