T-shaped Designer

Aman Gupta

If you are from the design community, maybe you already have heard about the T-shaped designer, a term popularised by the IDEO CEO Mr. Tim Brown. For those who don’t know what does the T-shaped designer means, Let me explain in terms of Mr. Tim Brown,

“The vertical stroke of the “T” is a depth of skill that allows them to contribute to the creative process. That can be from any number of different fields: an industrial designer, an architect, a social scientist, a business specialist or a mechanical engineer.

The horizontal stroke of the “T” is the disposition for collaboration across disciplines. It is composed of two things. First, empathy. It’s important because it allows people to imagine the problem from another perspective — to stand in somebody else’s shoes. Second, they tend to get very enthusiastic about other people’s disciplines, to the point that they may actually start to practice them. T-shaped people have both depth and breadth in their skills — Tim Brown

Being a T-shaped designer could help designers to design products which are technologically feasible and economically viable for humans.

But today, maybe that is not enough, web designer need to be more diverse in our skills because whenever we are working on a project, It is always a business opportunity for an organisation and a problem to solve for people. So, along with problem solving and understanding human behaviour, We got to learn and understand the business, after all every product is designed to create the business, ultimately making money for the company and solving a problem for the people.

Design thinking from IDEO is a concept which completely supports the triangularity of design as it is human center process approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

Now, we are seeing that a lot of companies have started adopting the design thinking approach so that they could design products and features that can grow their business. And it has made the designers to put the elements of the business in the product designs so that business and product can go up together.

Every business is solving a problem for some people.

But what is a Triangle shaped design and why we need to be a Triangle-shaped designer?

Some of the Skills of a Triangle shaped Designer

Triangle shaped design is completely based on the People, Problem and Business, in which a good design solution always lies in the centre.

In a triangle shaped design concept, it is really important to understand the people because ultimately we are going to design things for the people, and understanding the business part of the product can help to take right decision to shape the design in a way that people would love to pay and we should always be designing for the people problems because that’s what our aim is, to solve problems for people.

“A Triangle shaped designer blends the KPIs of business and Design”

The world is full of problems and even we humans face numerous problems everyday but we are lucky that now in 2019, we have a solution for every problem. Moreover, we are now at a stage when we can solve our problems even before getting into them.

So to put in context, let us think in a way that every human got a certain problem, and every problem includes a human and is a business opportunity, and every business is solving a problem for the people. So three of them are interconnecting and supports each other. What lies in the centre is a solution, it can be good or bad. Good solution has a value that business earns.

Being a Triangle-shaped designer is like a mindset to include the user requirements, their issues, problems and also business needs so that we can blend them together to create something meaningful and well designed thing.

So it becomes really important for us, being a designer to understand all of them together so we can design something valuable to both the business and people. And This is not just for the UX or Product designers only, It is for every designer who is trying to solve problems for the people or businesses.

Let me explain some examples, Suppose you are a graphic designer, you might be designing posters, graphics and templates to solve problems for your marketing team so that your marketing team can communicate with people easily and improve the brand awareness of the company. Or if you are a product designer, you are constantly trying to improve the user experience of the products so that the company can sell more but what if you know what factors are really making values for your company and how the company is making money on the products, then it might be easier for you to design better products. So no matter what kind of designer you are, you are always creating a design to increase the value of your business.

Good Design is good business — IBM

And when we went for the user research and put efforts in analysing and gathering insights and problems of people and if we know about our company well then we can really create an opportunity for our business. Like what Apple did with the iPad.

We designers are really good in our craft, that is designing beautiful looking interfaces, awful interactions, and memorable experiences. But we should realise that we designers are ultimately a part of the business strategy but still we did get our right place in the boardroom because people might not know the real value of design or they might think we are incompatible to understand business.

Moreover, When we just simply present our design presentation in the meeting room and we are telling about why we made that design decision then sometimes there might be faces that don’t properly get your decision but when we try to explain the business benefits of those design decision then everybody got attentive to the presentation and they feel really involved in the presentation because all of them are in the meeting to take decisions that can influence their business not just hearing the best solution you have designed. This is the value of business in design. And when you talk about the business in terms of design, everybody feels that you are part of them because you are willing to make something that is taking their business to the next level.

So we designers need to learn the business skills because once we know the business of products we are working on, we might be able to design better products for people and ultimately help our company grow and eventually get a position in the business decisions and strategies.

Doing an MBA to understand the business is not just a solution, We can still understand the business just being a good designer and observer. And to understand the business of the organisation, We can talk to the customer support team because they are the people who are constantly hearing the pain points of users, also the marketing teams and implementation teams (If got one) and most importantly we can spend some more time with the CEOs to understand why they started the business and what is their vision so that while designing the product, you can design a beautiful products with a taste of vision of the company which will have an impact on both sides, that is the company and its customers.

There are companies as successful as they are because they have designers that are focusing more on what those businesses need than on how perfect every pixel is going to look.

But remember, focusing solely on the business side of problems could result in the dark pattern designs which creates a bait like situation for the users to use the product they do not wish to use. So instead of focusing first on the business side of problems, we must first focus on the problem side, because there is the opportunity to create a new business model and solve the problem for the people.

Illustration by

We were always focused on the people and their problem but now the time has come to become a triangle shaped designer. So that we have a larger impact on both sides, People and Business.

A well designed product based on the triangularity of design can really have a larger impact on all the corners of the triangle shaped design. As the product will sell more the company can money, and the product will be used by as many people and it will solve many problems of the people if it is designed well. So a well designed product can really impact the people and businesses in a larger way.

So be a Triangle shaped designer.

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