Creating Practical Magic Through Design

with Deepa Prahalad


Deepa Prahalad is an author and design strategist. She’s worked with multiple startups and large multinationals and co-authored the book Predictable Magic which was selected by Fast Company as one of the best design books of the year. She also writes for the Harvard Business Review, Strategy+Business, Businessweek, and other major publications.

Deepa is a member of the International Academy of Management and ranked 34 on the inaugural Thinkers50 India list. She’s also a member of The Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches and mentors leading social entrepreneurs. Her schooling consists of a BA in economics and political sciences from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. An incredible resume!

Back to Basics…

Deepa was always a bookworm. Reading from a young age honed her desire for showing the world different perspectives and fueled a dream to become a journalist. As she grew up, she saw design as an outlet to share perspective in a creative and innovative way. Writing came naturally to her and she knew she would write a book that would bring her ideas to life.

Successful Innovation.

Deepa shares that if you’re trying to do something completely different, it’s essential to bring an emotional connection to the table. With shows like “Shark Tank,” the success is based on us being brought in as viewers to connect with the entrepreneurs, proving that we use emotional connection when determining what we would invest in.

Deepa believes that we select our products and services similarly to choosing friendships. Being able to design the elements of trust and novelty in your business grants a great chance of success.

What is good design?

To put it simply: good design makes people feel good about themselves. It makes them feel confident in taking on a challenge, saves time, and solves a problem. Great design also can be shared. When companies design products that can be used by a large demographic, you can use customer intelligence to help you promote your products.

Design is not just strategy, it is also ergonomics. If you’re developing a product, consider how it fits in someone’s hand. Would it be comfortable for people that are left-handed or right-handed? Is it compact? Deepa says considering these when building a prototype builds a strong foundation for a final product.

Design and Leadership.

Leadership and design go hand-in-hand. Design is constantly evolving and rooted in independence. Good design is brought up by leaders that are looking at the big picture. Where do you want this to go? Deepa expresses that there are no fixed markets, only trends that are changing with society. Being able to inspire your team to adapt to societal changes will give you a major upper hand.

Design and Society.

Now more than ever, inclusion has been a topic that continues to grow. Are we catering to everyone or the majority? Deepa says that catering to the minority can prove a point to the majority. Including changing tables in men’s restrooms and building wheelchair ramps can say a lot about your business without promoting anything. Investing in this design creates an emotional bond.

It shows that you care about accessibility, solving problems, and supporting your clientele without actually providing any service. It’s humility and empathy, which are key parts of great design. The pandemic drew attention to this exact idea; being accommodating to vaccine distribution, work from home systems, and health guidelines put into place.

What entrepreneurs need to know.

Deepa says entrepreneurs need to understand that design plays a role in how people will interpret the validity of your business. She says that any business can say, “How can I be more environmentally sustainable?” How do you design that plan? Your team and clientele look at your design as a measure of your sincerity and your capability. It’s not purely about aesthetics. It’s about action.

With that, good design is bringing a product or service along with an authentic narrative. Why was this created? Why is this important? Why is it worthy of someone’s attention? Building that trust will be the difference between someone kicking tires or actually making the purchase. Being transparent helps your cause greatly.

Shifting your design to focus on solving problems and improving the quality of your clientele’s life will result in success. People who are feeling emotionally connected and aligned with a brand do a few very valuable things. They buy more, they visit more often, they care less about price, they pay attention, they follow your advice, and they help spread the word. What more could you ask for?

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