It’s the Golden Age of Design. So Why Aren’t More Designers Starting Companies?

That’s an interesting question Jessica Alter is asking on

We’re supposedly in the midst of a design renaissance, where beyond the cliché Steve Jobs and Apple ecosystem example, we see a design-centric focus in everything from soap (Method) and thermostats (Nest) to email (Mailbox) and even baby food (Plum Organics).

And yet, there’s a dearth of designer founders.

At this point, the technology tools for design — enabled by the web — have evolved to a point where good design is accessible and scalable. Before, even design-centric product companies had to be founded by technical founders because of the narrow expertise required by the tools, not to mention the lack of user experiences and context at the time. But that’s no longer the case, and hasn’t been for a while.

So why then, in this Golden Age of Design, don’t we see more designers transitioning into entrepreneurship?

To be clear, I’m not saying there aren’t a healthy number of designers out there freelancing or starting design agencies; that is certainly entrepreneurial. What I’m talking about here is the type of entrepreneur where the designer is not an agent or service provider, but rather, part of the founding team that leads and drives the vision for the entire company’s spawning of innovative products.
It’s difficult to find the exact percentage of entrepreneurs that claim design as a primary skill set. But if I draw on the data of applicants to FounderDating, a network (which I run) of entrepreneurs ready to start their next side projects or companies, there are far fewer designer founders relative to other skill sets. Using this data as a proxy, it’s around 15 percent; after correcting for people who are more design-appreciators than designers, it’s probably closer to 6 percent.

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