Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 3.20.23 PMWhat’s the common thread among all Apple products? iPad, iPod, MacBook, iMac…what holds it all together?

Some  would say “aluminum” (although that would discount old MacBooks and the current iPhone 5c). Others would say “intuitive operation.” Maybe that’s a bit closer.

The common element, in my opinion, is good design. Often that means simple. As I type this, there is one–count it, ONE–visible brand on my laptop. Directly below the screen reads “MacBook Pro”. That’s it. No Apple logo (that’s on the lid), no drop shadows, no gradients or stickers telling me what’s inside my computer. That’s good design. It’s easier to be complicated: to add and pile on and include everything and the kitchen sink…and then put a sticker with your logo on it on the kitchen sink.

I find it interesting that intelligent, educated business folks recognize the brilliant design which permeates companies like Apple, yet they turn around and use a horrible font in their email signature. Or format their resume in a way that makes it hard to read.

“I’m a [fill in your business specialty], not a graphic designer. Don’t bore me with talk of fonts and layout!” I don’t think you have to master every aspect of Adobe Creative Suite in addition to your MBA coursework, but stop and think for a moment about all the opportunities the average businessperson has to either wow or disappoint someone with good design work:

– Emails
– Resume and cover letter
– PowerPoint presentations
– Proposals and papers

That’s the tip of the iceberg. If you are involved with marketing, website maintenance, or manage people that do you REALLY need to understand design. Please don’t understand me: I’m not saying you need to become an artist. I draw sloppy stick figures (seriously, it’s embarrassing). But I understand that everything I produce–read, “design”–reflects on me. So I pay attention to white space and fonts. I know the difference between kerning and leading. I pay attention to design in the same way I pay attention to how I look when I leave my house in the morning. And I think that has helped my career.

If you have the opportunity to take or audit a design class I highly recommend it. At the very least snoop around the web and educate yourself on excellent design. It’s not hard. It’s just something we have to go out of our way to learn, just like we learned about accounting and linear regression (I like typography more). I think you’ll be amazed at the business applications of good design.

(here are a few resources to get you started)

Fast Company
Typography 101
– A hilarious (and truthful) analysis of email signatures