Are Designers also Marketers?

Kathy Sierra says we’re all marketers: “In this new open-source/cluetrain world, I am a marketer. And so are you. If you’re interested in creating passionate users, or keeping your job, or breathing life into a startup, or getting others to contribute to your open source project, or getting your significant other to agree to the […]

Kathy Sierra says we’re all marketers:

“In this new open-source/cluetrain world, I am a marketer. And so are you. If you’re interested in creating passionate users, or keeping your job, or breathing life into a startup, or getting others to contribute to your open source project, or getting your significant other to agree to the vacation you want to go on… congratulations. You’re in marketing.”

Henry Dreyfuss, who wrote the industrial design classic Designing for People, includes marketing as part of what designers do:

“We bear in mind that the object being worked on is going to be ridden in, sat upon, looked at, talked into, activated, operated, or in some other way used by people individually or en masse.

When the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the industrial designer has failed.

On the other hand if people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient—or just plain happier—by contact with the product, then the designer has succeeded.

It it interesting that Dreyfuss would include the words “more eager to purchase”, which is certainly not a widely-agreed-upon task of most designers. This is most often relegated to another part of the company. While Dreyfuss was focusing on industrial design (the building of physical products) he was writing in the 50s, before virtual products/software were around. So, can we apply this notion to web application design as well?

We chatted about this idea during a talk I gave to the NHUPA folks last night in Portsmouth. One interesting supposition bubbled up…when designers are tasked with selling their product they make better products. When they are not tasked with selling their product they have less responsibility, and thus aren’t forced into getting feedback on what they’re making. It’s that feedback you get from selling, from your success/failure at marketing, which pushes back positively into the design process. Of course, this idea of marketing is different than the common one of a snake-oil salesman…

So do you buy that idea? Do you think designers are also marketers? Should they be?

Published: October 16th, 2008

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