Designers who want to get startup-y?

9 years ago from , Chief Product Officer @ CompStak

Got this question from a friend:

"You've been writing a lot about designer entrepreneurs lately, and have piqued my interest. To me, there is something inherently bizarre about the way we use our skill set to sell our ideas for pennies on the dollar to our clients.

There are plenty of books which purport to teach design thinking to people with a business background. Can you recommend reading for designers who are interested in having a better feel for how business decisions are made?"

Are there any books like this?

Would you actually recommend this reading?

Or more lean startup type reading?


  • Daniel PuglisiDaniel Puglisi, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

    Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro

    8 points
  • Graham HicksGraham Hicks, 9 years ago

    Robert Lenne (Head of Design at Artsy) has a great list of articles about product design and thinking. They're not all "lean startup type reading" but all worth a look:


    2 points
  • Emily SaforrianEmily Saforrian, 9 years ago

    Can you please clarify?

    Are you asking about the business of design. That is, how to sell it to clients, how to run an agency, etc.


    Are you asking about designing for business/product objectives. That is, making sure what you design will make money or accomplish a business objective.

    2 points
  • Andrew Nascimento, 9 years ago

    Kern and Burn is a great book related to both design and entrepreneurship. You can get it here: http://amzn.to/1kIiRIu

    1 point
  • Jeff Domke, 9 years ago

    Good questions guys.

    Pretty sure the subtext of his question was:

    "I want to create my own product startup (not a design consultancy). But there's all this business-y knowledge that I don't have and I want to know all about pro-forma financials, business models and MBA type stuff."

    On the one hand, I think this is good knowledge to at least be familiar with. On the other, I think its 1000x more important for this designer to read Lean Startup, Lean Analytics and Rework.

    What do you guys think?

    +1 on Rober Lenne's list.

    0 points
    • Andrew RitchieAndrew Ritchie, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

      I don't think you need to think about a business model much beyond working toward having an idea of cost of customer acquisition and what a customer's lifetime value is (because if customers cost more than their lifetime value then you're not going to have a business). And even that assumes you have a customer, which is a horrible assumption to make. The MBA type stuff is important but it's a waste to think about those concerns before you have a product people want to use or customers. Right now I am a hacker in residence at Techstars NYC and I can tell you from experience companies don't start thinking about business models until they have a product. I can't stress enough to start with the customer. If you are creating value and you have customers you can learn the MBA stuff and apply it to your business. You can't get customers by learning the MBA stuff.

      2 points
  • Andrew RitchieAndrew Ritchie, 9 years ago

    Your question in the text is not entirely consistent with your headline.

    If you want to start a company you need to think about a problem space and start developing a business that solves a problem for your customers. I actually do recommend reading lean startup as a starting point but not treating it as a canonical text. You also want to think about whether you can bootstrap your company or whether you need to learn how to raise money through investors (which is about making contacts & selling your business as a high growth opportunity at a high level).

    On the other hand if you just want to learn more about how business decisions are made at wherever you work now you should probably tell us a bit more about the company you work for and what industry it operates in. Then we can recommend books on your industry.

    0 points