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Designers as Entrepreneurs: An Investigation on Why Startups Need Design and Design Need Startups
Chew, Selene Se Lui

2015, Master of Fine Arts, Ohio State University, Industrial, Interior Visual Communication Design.
Research have shown that the design-centric companies have yielded returns 228% greater than non-design-centric companies over the last 10 years. In another parallel research, Dyer et al. developed an Innovative Premium Test and discovered that leaders with high `innovative premium’ tends to lead a company in an innovative way, thus having a higher chance for a more successful company. Both researches have shown either being design-centric or innovative leads to a more successful company, but the innovative test has not been done on designers specifically. A pattern among these design-centric companies found that design is needed to build quality and innovative products or services, develop strategic market advantage, and encourage innovative design-centric corporate cultures through design-led leadership styles.
Startups are newly found small businesses with the purpose of delivering new product or services and searching for a repeatable and scalable business model under extreme uncertainty. A startup needs design to build up a design-centric scalable and repeatable business model while at infancy, and be competitive and innovative to navigate through the uncertainty of delivering novel products or services. A startup with a designer as one of the founders is said to help cultivate a design-centric culture within the company. UX designers in particular are needed for their competencies to deliver products that meet user’s needs and to juggle strategically between business and design.
In recent years, while more startups realize the importance of design, more designers choose entrepreneurship than before. Despite the surge in designers becoming founders, there seems to be greater demand than supply for designers in the startup community. Designers are underrepresented in the startup community as compared to business and engineering. In this thesis, interviews with designer founders, and startup and design experts, and a survey with designers, were conducted to examine the contributions of designers as founders, the needs of learning of designers to be a founder and designer’s motivation and barriers for entrepreneurship. The Innovative Premium Test was also conducted through the survey to measure the innovative premium of designers.
The results showed that the main barrier was designers’ self-limitation to the contribution of design to a startup, which is partly due to the lack of exposure to entrepreneurship. Designers have high innovative premium, thus showing that designers are innovative in general. There is also a positive correlation between entrepreneurial activities and “Idea Networking” skill, one of the behavioral traits of an innovator according to Dyer et al. UX Designers are discovered to have similar skillsets as Entrepreneurs, but they still need to build business literacy as a founder. Thus, designers who are aspiring founders need to learn the skills of UX Designers, build business literacy and cultivate their “Idea Networking” skill. Interestingly, these needs of learning are also applicable to designers who do not want to be a founder. Therefore, I propose the introduction of entrepreneurship as a career option to all designers through collaboration with startups.
R.B. Stone (Advisor)
Scott Shim (Committee Member)
David Staley (Committee Member)
369 p.

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Chew, S. (2015). Designers as Entrepreneurs: An Investigation on Why Startups Need Design and Design Need Startups. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Chew, Selene Se Lui. "Designers as Entrepreneurs: An Investigation on Why Startups Need Design and Design Need Startups." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2015. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 23 Oct 2017.

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Chew, Selene Se Lui "Designers as Entrepreneurs: An Investigation on Why Startups Need Design and Design Need Startups." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2015. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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