Why there is Design misconception

A misconception leads to missing opportunities.

Ahmed Bousuwa
5 min readJan 7, 2024

Many of us will miss opportunities in life because of misconceptions or wrong perceptions.

Design is one of those missed opportunities. There is a high number of people who perceive design solely as a matter of look and feel, influenced by colors, shapes, patterns, etc.

At least, this is what most people think of when hearing or reading the word ‘design.’ If you observe nature and physical objects, you will discover that everything has a design.

In fact, design is an everyday tool. You design your day, life, environment, career, and the list goes on. It doesn’t stop there.

Any designed product or visuals you fall in love with involve a process and an immense amount of work. They go through a design process, from understanding, researching, analyzing, ideating, experimenting, to iterating.

Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked

Steve Jobs

People simply think of design how it looks. Designers behind many innovative products have played a crucial role in turning ideas into business, yet they aren’t always communicating the values that design brings to business.

We should help people differentiate between different types of design.

Due to misconceptions and wrong perceptions, many companies fail in solving business challenges, understanding customers, improving products and services, building new features, or designing strategies.

Do you remember Blackberry?

At first, it found success in the business world by offering email, internet, instant messages, and phone capabilities in one device, meeting the business needs of the time.

However, it failed to comprehend the broader customer needs and desires, neglected user experience design, and lacked a strategy for its application store — it was restricted.

If they had listened and incorporated design disciplines, they probably would have become direct competitors with Apple and Samsung.

In the ongoing market changes, strategic innovation and creativity are essential to stay afloat in the future, and design is a contributor you must leverage.

Design in business is an arm for companies that want to remain present in the future as new markets and global landscape take its new shape.

From my experience and observation, the misconception and unawareness affect companies in the following scenarios:

  • In large companies, they hire designers, but leadership doesn’t buy into the design discipline. They dictate how things are done, and as a result, many transformation and innovation projects fail.
  • Small and medium companies can be adversely affected by changing market trends. Missing transformation and innovation opportunities can result in losing a portion of their market

Many companies have goals to achieve, and the most important goal is staying ahead of a transforming market by understanding customers’ changing needs and meeting those needs with innovative products, services, processes, or technology.

But a good number of them are failing, in chaos, or unaware of transformation, all because of design misconception and lack of awareness that prevented them from accessing design consultancy

Only companies with deep pockets hire prominent consulting firms to help them solve problems. The reason I am bringing this up is that consulting firms use the same methods, approaches, and toolkits employed by designers.

Consulting firms have adopted these skills through acquiring design firms in the last 15 years. (source: page 13).

Design is like having a private trainer — coaching, training, guiding, and mentoring you to reach your goals in less cost and time. Compared to doing it alone, it will cost you more to get to your goals, and sometimes, you may never achieve them.

Take the analogy as a high-level concept. Don’t consider it set in stone, and don’t move a company forward using old approaches, expecting that you don’t need a trainer.

The future of the company and market share is at stake here as you experiment. The impact is massive, affecting all under that brand. In contrast to the example above, when deciding to do it on your own, your failure will impact only you.

The value of design and how to deliver the message effectively

Changing how to approach challenges with design discipline will bring values like:

A) Navigating business challenges: from uncertainty to clarity

B) Designing the building blocks of the solution

C) Identifying scope and ranking capabilities (features)

D) Better estimated budget

E) Deliver solution addresses your business needs, goals and strategy

H) Path to innovate and transform

Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value

Albert Einstein

I don’t believe the business community is to blame, its on us designers. I have started socializing about the value of design in business. In a way that resonate with business community. A language they can understand and relate to.

Companies strive to understand their challenge. Define the right scope, requirements, capabilities and budget. This is the opportunity to socialize the value of design in a form resonate and address these areas.

The main thing I came up with to resonate is the cost and company’s three levels. How design can save time and cost to achieve business goals.

Through my experience and observation, I have reached the following approach: the relationship between design and cost is an inverse relationship.

At higher levels of a company, when design is employed to solve problems, the cost of resources incurred is lower.

A lower levels, the utilization of design to solve problems results in higher incurred costs for resources.

In the scenario, you have designers or outsourcing consultancy services:

For example, solving strategic challenge at strategy level leveraging design will save you cost by identifying the roots of the challenge, design the building blocks of the solution and validate ideas. Rather than solving problems at tactic or operational level. the lower the level the higher the cost.

In the scenario where you have no designers and are not seeking outside help:

Moving the company forward with a traditional approach incurs higher costs to reach lofty goals. Often, projects fail and may never get it right. (refer to illustration (A) above).

Addressing values and costs will resonate well with business leaders and communities. Businesses and companies should race to outsource or hire designers amid a changing market. I hope this brings clarity and encourages many to leverage design.

In October 2022, India added a ‘design thinking’ elective to its education systems, opening the door for creativity and innovation.

Now, let’s ponder why India has introduced design thinking to its education system.

Let me know your thoughts, and feel free to ask me any design questions.

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Thanks for reading!

If you have any question or need any help, please reach out.

Ahmed Ali



Ahmed Bousuwa

Design Strategist. Help companies & ventures with complex challenges. Setting direction for strategic initiatives & desired goals. neostrateje.com