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Early stage startups are often focused on developing their offer/product and raising funds, and  frequently leave behind design – unless what they offer is specifically design related.

Design is important for early stage startups because it can make a big difference in the startup’s future: first, good design can lead to more investments; secondly, with a good design it’s much easier to be remarkable, to gain credibility and make a great first impression. That is why design is fundamental in a new startup: read these 10 design tips for startups to help get you started.


1. Don’t underestimate design

Not everyone is aware that design has a great power and has an impact on your product, or how you present it, from day one. Now imagine the Apple website: what comes to mind is a clean, minimal, elegant website – just like Apple’s products.

Apple Good Design

But what if their website was like this?

Apple Bad Design

I don’t know how many of us would actually buy from them…


2. Have a design expert who can help you

In an early stage startup it’s tempting (and sometimes necessary) to have someone doing everything and wearing many hats. When talking about design, though, it’s vital to have a design expert who is able to help you. It can be a freelance designer, a small agency, even an acquaintance. As long as you don’t do everything yourself, especially if you come from an entirely different background, it’s all going to work. People per hour, for example, is a good resource to find designers, and 99designs can be a good solution when the budget is limited.


3. DOn’t ask for too many opinions

Design is subjective! Asking for opinions is important, but you will soon discover that everyone has an opinion about design. It’s good to brainstorm and produce a lot of ideas, but there is the need of a second phase where only people working directly on the design can choose the best ideas and follow a clear vision.


4. Keep it simple

Good design is often design that you can’t see –  as little design as possible (as Apple proves) is often the best way to go. This is why it’s important to keep it simple and not to exaggerate – too many colors, fonts, elements in a website, a banner or a flyer are not going to help your overall design feel. When at the beginning of 2016 Uber changed their logo from a minimal U to a weird circle with a pattern background users were not happy (although Uber had their reasons behind the rebranding).  When in doubt, always remember to keep it simple.

Uber Logo Before After


5. Done is better than perfect

As Archie Gorky (Movements in art since 1945) said, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]“I never finish a painting – I just stop working on it for a while.”[/inlinetweet] Designers like everything to be pixel perfect and, if they could, they would spend hours and hours working on a single icon because it has to be flawless. When working for a startup, though, this is not applicable – at least not at the beginning. Have your designer expert give up the idea of “perfect” and ask them to embrace the concept of “good enough”. They’ll optimise their time and the final price will be less.


6. Design for your audience

A startup developing a winter coat will have a different design from a startup creating a mobile marketing app; don’t follow the “Apple dream” if your audience is very far from Apple’s. Research the market and adjust the design vision based on your target.


7. Keep moving forward

You can afford just a simple logo design and a one page website? It’s OK. You will have time to move forward in the future, and in the meantime you are starting. There’s always time to make things better and to improve your design later, even if you start with something simple. (But remember, not the logo that you designed in Paint, something created by a design expert!)


8. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Creating means making mistakes; don’t be afraid of following a design direction and then changing it later on because it wasn’t the right one. Brands develop and evolve, and so will yours. You will be able to amend your mistakes and learn from them as you go forward.


9. Have a consistent brand

That said, if you nail your brand from the start, be sure to keep it consistent (online and offline). It will make a big difference in the long run, and you can always think about some restyling later on.



10. Ask for feedback (and learn from it)

Asking for feedback is a fantastic to improve your design: don’t be afraid to ask to your investors, clients, friends and acquaintances. Of course not every opinion is going to work for you, but between 10 feedbacks you’re going to find that one feedback that it’s going to change your point of view.

Good luck!

The Sandpit Team

Author The Sandpit Team

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