Free and easy-to-use CAD software, 3D printing, and crowdfunding have made it easier and faster than ever to design, sell, and ship.Where once engineers used to rely on raw programming languages to create software; today, they build from open-source libraries and preexisting technology platforms.And for all of this hard work, you might earn 40 points of gross margin, less than the end retailer that served as a shelf and not much more.Today, 20 years later, you can design a product with the freeware version of Sketch Up, make your first rapid prototype on your own desktop Maker Bot, raise 0,000 in crowd-funding on Kickstarter, purchase ,000 soft tools from PCH, set up virtual distribution with Shipwire or Amazon or both, and market and sell directly to your customers off your own website. But the cardinal question that every aspiring designer founder needs to answer before embarking on their entrepreneurial odyssey has changed. The starting point is now: Why are you building it at all?Expending valuable time on anything else — particularly design — was evidence of distraction from the real work of the company.But things have changed dramatically in just a few short years, and increasingly, design has become as indispensable as technology.It’s my conviction that the 21st century will be the designer’s century, because I believe that design is the greatest lever for building the greatest companies to come.The most interesting innovation is happening at the top of the stack—at the interface with end users— where technology development intersects with design and where a swipe right or a hold might decide the next breakout business.
I’m a craftsman at heart and I honor this form of design.
In the consumer internet world in particular, the marginal cost of software is zero—and design is now the differentiator.