I recently interviewed John Maeda (tech and design luminary and author and now chief experience officer at Publicis Sapient) as part of my research for our Design Revolution series. In a wide-ranging conversation, one of the issues we discussed is the tension that sometimes arises between design professionals and their colleagues. John’s take:

The way people talk about design often leads to an elitist split between designers and nondesigners, which is not helpful. I prefer to focus on experience and the business value afforded by it.

I like the way John frames this issue, because Forrester observes many companies falling for one of two opposing myths about who should design:

  • Myth: “With design-thinking training, anyone can design.”
  • Myth: “Design should always be done by professional designers.”

The more productive way to look at this is to shift the focus away from who is “in the club” and toward what design is supposed to be about in the first place: valuable experiences for customers.

The truth is, companies need both: 1) the democratization that design thinking delivers — if done right and 2) the expertise of professional designers. It’s a matter of striking the right balance for delivering the right experiences. The third key ingredient to get the people mix right is representativeness — making sure your design team is not a homogeneous monoculture but mirrors the people affected by the experiences your company designs.

Do you and your colleagues see it this way? To learn more about the thinking behind this analysis and about our recommendations, see our new report, “Who Should Design: Blend Democratization, Expertise, And Representativeness.”

Would you be willing to share with me and my research team about the misperceptions you’ve observed about who should design at your company? We’d love to hear from you — reach out anytime.