Underdog

The Wrong Kind of White Space

Startups now know world-class design is a prerequisite for success (good for us). And, the importance of design becomes even clearer when you look at valuations and performance of design-centric companies (they destroy their industry’s average). Just ask Jacqui Boland of Red Tricycle who said “design has gone from a “bonus” or something you invest in once you raise money, to ‘table stakes.’ You’re not even in the game unless you have good design.” (Good article too btw)

So, it’s no surprise when startups come to us mentioning things like “clean”, “modern”, “minimal” and “white space”. However, the secret to world-class design lies in a different kind of white space—the distance between startups and their competition.

As a startup founder reading this, you might be tempted to think “my product is completely unique and I have no competition.” But hopefully you know better. Because even though the former is likely true, the latter most certainly isn’t. At the most basic level, you’re competiting for your audience’s time and the products they’re currently using to fill that space. And whatever problem you’re solving for them, they’re either not bothering to solve it or they’re doing so in a way that’s less effective than what you’re offering.

Any way you slice it, you’ve got to position your startup as something different. Something special in the minds of your audience. And that doesn’t just come from beautiful asthetics and intuitive UI (which again are both very necessary). It doesn’t even come from technology. It comes from creating a unique voice, both visually and verbally, that resonates with the people you want to serve. Only then, when you know how to truly connect with your audience, does the design work become world-class.

Key Insight: The startups that defy the odds and win are the ones that have competitiors but no competition. In other words, they’ve positioned their brand in a way that truly separates themselves from all the other options.


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The biggest reason is also the one no one talks about.

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