The World’s Most Disruptive Companies Reveal How They Design the Future / by Gavin Lau

If the success of Apple has seen the rise of the product designer, then the fact that several billion dollar companies were started by designers confirms that design is driving innovation across the world. People who are aware of this new phenomenon might start to wonder: what gives design its power to disrupt the world? The new documentary film, Design Disruptors, invites us to take an intimate look into the processes, perspectives and approaches of the leaders at the world’s foremost technology firms.

Among them is Airbnb, Coursera, Dropbox, Etsy, Eventbrite, Evernote, Facebook, Google Ventures, HubSpot, MailChimp, Netflix, Pinterest, Salesforce, Spotify, Twitter, Xero, Zendesk, whose combined valuation is worth more than one trillion dollars.

Design is not about making things pretty, but about understanding users and building truly humane products or services.

As a strategist with backgrounds in both industrial design and service design, I cannot help but draw a parallel between Design Disruptors and another documentary film, Objectified, which illustrates the impact that design has on our lives and the creative processes of the world’s most influential designers.

If the film Objectified shows us the act of transforming creative ideas into tangible objects, then Design Disruptors shares the process of creating a new experience through a series of interactive interfaces. While the dominant products of the whole industry are morphing from three-dimensional things into two-dimensional forms, the tools we use and the ways we act have changed tremendously. Even what we mean by design evolves. What stays, however, is the philosophy of human-centered design and the designers’ role of building connections between users and products.

Experience is the core value of any successful business.

It is not news any more that well-designed experience determines the growth of businesses. As said in the trailer by Andy Law, product designer at Netflix, “Companies are getting closer to the idea that if you can create an amazing experience, it’s going to help improve your business.”

However, how does a who’s who of user experience designers play into that end?

More specific design processes and culture-related design strategies will be revealed in the full-length cut of the film. And each of the star designers will talk us through how they have elevated design in their organization with a special approach to design and design collaboration.


Clark Valberg, InVision CEO, revealed an example to PSFK:

Airbnb’s Katie Dill explains that the design team is not a ‘design’ team, but an ‘experience’ team. They consider every touch point with a user, from first click to when a guest enters a host’s home, a point within an intentionally-designed, overarching brand experience. They stay true to this vision by including their community in their experience design processes.

With the sensibility of culture and human behaviors, designers help companies understand the real needs of users and better define relevant challenges.

As the world evolves constantly, the nature of the challenges we are facing also changes apace. How well we are able to frame the problems decides how much value one may provide to users.

As the “consumer advocate,” designers mediate between the latest technologies and the cultural context of the target audience. With rapid prototyping being designers’ second nature, it allows designers to quickly materialize new ideas, get feedback and iterate. Through the process of constant iteration, designers gain valuable insights about the target market and validate the assumptions in the early stage.

Empowered by more and more advanced technology that makes imagination a bold new reality, design determines what kind of future we will end up with.

Each of the companies is involved in an aspect of our life and is powerful in its own way. Together, they are changing the way we live our lives and have an incomparable impact on modern businesses and the world. While user experience design is getting the attention that design has never had, it is crucial for us to re- examine how we create digital experiences and what kind of future it’s leading us to.

A striking question is put forward in the trailer: “What is the future that we want to build together?”

When asked if the film would give us an answer to that question, Clark Valberg was hopeful, saying:

Already, designers and design-led companies are building things with a very common set of guiding principles or core values—to be of most service and value to the end user; to create delightful, beautiful experiences; to keep the humanity of products top of mind; to remember that all problems to be solved are human problems.

As more designers enter the C-suite, these values will continue to grow in strength and successful business cases—disrupting the business landscape at large. Startups or innovation-driven companies should always keep their end user at the forefront of all decision-making, and keep the impact organization-level decisions will have on their user’s journey—for better or worse.

Watching the stars of the world’s foremost companies uncover their creative process gives us a bird’s eye view of the whole industry and the transformative power of design.

Inspired by the influential role of designers in shifting the way organizations communicate with the world, InVision decided to offer a bigger platform for the designers to tell their stories. The film,Design Disruptors, unveils all the tiny human-centric strategies, decisions and design tactics of the leading practitioners. By sharing them publicly, InVision aspires to educate millions for the betterment of the design community and design in general.

What the film presents might not be unprecedented, but by bringing us into the world of today’s design leaders, for the very least, it inspires us to reflect on how design has tremendously shaped business and the world we live in. With a better understanding of design’s role in our ever-shifting world, we are more likely to create a more desirable future together.