Issue 2 - August 2020
Welcome to the latest issue of the Designers in Business Newsletter 👋
Thank you to those who got in touch after July’s launch edition. It’s great to hear what you’ve found useful, and your topic suggestions for future editions.
There’s been a steady stream of new subscribers - welcome aboard!
After just one issue we’re nearly at 150 members. A modest count, but it’s encouraging to see so many designers share an interest in better understanding the world of business.
Finally, if you find any of the content curated in these newsletters helpful, feel free to let the creators know. It’s their generosity and knowledge helping us gain confidence in business together.
Curator of Designers in Business
Subscription business models
Subscriptions have rapidly become the way we pay for all kinds of products and services. From TV to food recipe boxes, these businesses are increasingly revered for the flexibility they offer over traditional purchasing models.
Many designers use subscription Software as a Service (SaaS) tools daily for work. Products like Figma, Slack and Notion generate revenue through recurring subscriptions rather than one-off purchases.
This month we’ll dive into these increasingly popular business models, and learn how it’s not just digital services moving towards this flexible (and potentially more sustainable) world of subscriptions.
🧭 Guide: The business of SaaS
By Patrick McKenzie from Stripe
A poster-child for SaaS success, Stripe is a global payments gateway used by millions of businesses worldwide.
Stripe’s long-read guide to the business of SaaS is an excellent primer. It outlines the core business concepts, pricing options, and demystifies important SaaS business metrics.
Stripe is a SaaS product for handling payment online
It also covers an important strategy decision; whether to run a low-touch or high-touch sales model. This decision has big implications for design teams responsible for product marketing and on-boarding experiences.
🎤 Podcast (transcribed): Every Business Can Be a Subscription Business
Interview with Robbie Kellman Baxter, Strategy consultant and author for HBR IdeaCast
When we discuss subscription models, it’s common to think in terms of software and digital services. But it’s not just digital-native businesses that are moving in this direction - physical products and in-person services are exploring these business models too.
This excellent interview with subscription business expert Robbie Kellman Baxter (author of The Forever Transaction) explores how even the most traditional of businesses can transition to a recurring payment model.
📝 Article: Circular economy can bring benefits all round
By FT Editorial Board (requires signup or an FT subscription to read)
Subscription business models link into a wider concept we’ll explore more deeply in future newsletters, called the Circular Economy.
According to the Ellen McCather Foundation, “a circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems”.
This article from the FT outlines how businesses such as Lego and Ikea are experimenting with subscription models to lease their products as an alternative to one-off purchases.
As designers we’ll have a crucial role to play in circular economies, designing the systems to manage requests, returns, and servicing throughout the extended lifecycle of a leased product.
📝 Article: Picking a pricing strategy for your product
By Des Traynor, Co-founder of
Intercom are known for their user-centric approach to customer messaging, and charge for their products through recurring payment models.
In this article, Intercom’s co-founder breaks down how businesses can establish their revenue model from three pricing strategies: transactional, enterprise and self-service.
📝 Article: Value of content design to your business
By Sarah Richards and Lizzie Bruce from Content Design London
We’re starting this month’s influence section by sharing a fantastic guide for anyone looking to communicate the business case for great content design.
Whether you need to explain the discipline’s roles to non-designers or break down how content design can generate or save money, this brilliantly curated guide from Content Design London has you covered.
🎥 Video (captioned): The Life of a Changemaker: Lessons From the Battlefield
Talk by Maria Giudice, Design Leadership Coach & Founder of Hot Studio at IxDA 2019
The competitive advantage of design is being realised by more businesses than ever. Design leaders are finding executive presence a realistic prospect. But having a seat at the table is only the start of the challenge for designers in many large organisations.
Maria Giudice speaking at Interaction conference 2019
In this talk from last year’s Interaction conference in Seattle, Maria breaks down actionable strategies for design leaders looking to influence long-term business change.
Maria explains how she found success through executive sponsorship, aligning design work to business goals, and making her team’s work visible beyond the design studio.
📝 Article: Human-Centered Design Dies at Launch
By Jesse Weaver, Director of Entrepreneurial Design at CMCI Studio
Helping designers have more business influence is one of the aims of this newsletter. But what if becoming more business-centric begins to cloud our judgement as designers?
In this critical look at the impact of Silicon Valley business models on user-centred design, Jesse‘s warns that “bad things happen as we stop solving people problems and start solving business problems”.
Last issue I shared a couple of practical articles on communicating the ROI of design work. I’ve discovered another from the smart folks at Designer Fund, published on the Adobe XD Ideas blog.
📝 Article: 20 Levers for Communicating the Business Impact of Design
By Enrique Allen, co-founder of Designer Fund
Divided into four quadrants - saving money, making money, direct impact and indirect impact - this canvas helps map the business areas where design can maximise its value.
An example of Designer Fund’s 20 Levers framework in use
The article opens with examples of familiar (and often frustrating) conversations between design teams and their wider business. These set the scene nicely, starting with a common challenge for teams of scale - justifying the cost to build your first design system.
A new section appearing this month, ‘The Design Business’ is a slightly meta topic. Here we’ll look at the business of… running a design business.
From agencies to independent contractors, we’ll shine a light on running a design consultancy, and how to communicate our value to potential clients.
🎥 Video (captioned, transcribed): How to be a Freelance Product Designer
Interview with Jared Erondu, Head of Design at Lattice
Filmed when Jared was a freelancer, this interview for Dann Petty‘s documentary series provides a balanced view of the skills required to run your own independent design business.
Jared Erondu discussing freelance life and business
Discussing his experience gaining the business skills needed to succeed as a design contractor, Jared covers important considerations for those running a freelance consultancy: marketing, time management, and pricing strategy.
That’s it for another month, but issue 3 is already starting to take shape.
Next time we’ll be exploring the future of business models, diving deeper into the circular economy and the opportunities it will afford designers.
We’ll also cover more competitor analysis frameworks, and start demystifying some common (but often confusing) business terminology.
See you in September!