People should stop asking if they need designers on their team or as their founding members simply because it is the wrong question to ask. In my opinion, the main question should be: What type of product am I building? If the answer is: A technology company, then a designer co-founder may make no sense, and not choosing a designer would come naturally. But if the answer is: A product, then a designer co-founder (or on your team) makes total sense. Here is why.
This is what you should be asking yourself when building a product, not whether or not you need a designer. Would you prefer to live in a world that consists of products like this? Or would you prefer one filled with products like this (yes, I went there)? Whether you like it or not, designers shape products. They help make them consistent, delightful and easy to use. That's our job. See, if you bullshit your way through the notion that developers can read a book or two and not only understand design, but be successful at designing your product, you have no right to complain about this site, this site or this one. Heck, you have no right to complain about any type of design really. As a business owner that creates products, you help shape the world around us, and if you promote this type of product sensibility, it's all your fault.
So, what type of world do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a world that is comprised of mediocre products and hard to understand UIs? Does it consist of platforms designed only for developers to understand, excluding everyone that is not tech savvy? Or would you rather a world filled with easy to use, understandable, simple, beautiful and aesthetically pleasing products? The choice is yours really. Stop thinking of your company and the startup world in such narrow views, they deserve more than that. You shape the future of the world you live in, not only the future of your business. Grow up.
This post is in response to this.
Written in New York. © 2013