When Mark Dwight founded Rickshaw Bagworks in San Francisco, he wanted to sell customizable bags for people and companies. He also wanted to offer very low minimum order requirements with fast delivery. His strategy required design decisions that have since infused all aspects of his business.
First, he simplified the customer experience by offering fewer customization options instead of more. Customers requested this simplification. Therefore, customers liked it (Mark Dwight “Simple Designs for Complex Times” Inc., June 2014, p. 60):
“We reduced the [color choice] options. This improved the customer experience, streamlined order fulfillment, and simplified our user interface.”
Second, he preached the mantra of “keep it super simple” into all aspects of his operations. Regardless of whether it is raw materials, policies, or sales, everything is kept super simple:
“We design with pencil and paper: simple tools for simple designs. We predominantly sell direct and build to order, avoiding finished-goods inventory, forecasting, and waste. We source most of our materials and components domestically, to keep our supply chain short and facilitate just-in-time material delivery and fast turnaround. We avoid rules and legalese. Our short, plain-language guarantee states ‘No reasonable request denied.’”
We can learn some lessons from Rickshaw Bagworks. Granted, some business situations certainly require much more complex design at all levels. If that is what is required to get the job done, then so be it. On the other hand, perhaps too many companies are making too many things too complicated for no real benefit. It all comes down to one key design word.