Twitter did it. So did Instagram and Fab. Some of the most successful technology startups in recent memory have one thing in common: They’ve applied principles of creativity, innovation and design to their process in order to arrive at a winning idea.
If you’re wondering what’s in these companies’ secret sauces, just know that the ingredients are exactly what we practice in the creative agency world. Here are some centered design principles used by recent Silicon Valley startups to turn their brands into huge successes.
#1. Don’t be afraid to create a beautiful experience.
Fab was originally a niche social networking site, but they later pivoted based on a single insight: People want beautiful design in their everyday lives.
The fact that we are multisensory creatures should be a lesson to brands: When developing a new idea, prioritizing how design can enhance the overall experience is key to success. This might encompass the website experience itself, or the presentation of that experience (e.g., the look, tone, and feel of any and all of the brands’ visual elements). Fab capitalized on this fact, as did Pinterest, and both became online sensations as a result.
Key takeaway: When thinking about how to innovate your brand, design should play a key role from the outset
#2. Know what you are good at and build on that asset.
Instagram famously started as a Foursquare-like copycat called Burbn. But by watching and listening to users, Burbn found that their users were taking advantage of the app’s photo-sharing feature and not much else. Recognizing they were savvy at enabling users to take and share photos, they scrapped the original concept and rebuilt it to be the best photosharing app it could be.
Key takeaway: Knowing what you are good at is the first step to building something consumers love. Building on what drives users to your brand is a terrific starting point for making something even better—don’t chain yourself to your first idea.
#3: Validating new ideas can be quick and painless.
Twitter started out as Odeo, which was essentially a podcasting company. But when they realized podcasting was a dead end offering, they began ideating around what else they could do, and be.
The company held rapid-fire ideation sessions where they listened to their staff members’ ideas and realized several of them as low-fi prototypes.
Here are the future multi-millionaires in action:
The site that eventually grew into Twitter was tested by only 50 people for qualitative feedback.
Key takeaway: Ideation sessions can help brands quickly come up with concepts that can be prototyped and tested, sometimes with just paper sketches. All you have to do to test them is “get out of the building” and talk to people. And keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be a huge, significant number of users to let you know you’re onto something.