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The Business Behind Design Recap

UNITE • March 2020

By Maya Dottin

KeyAnna Stimedl, Andrea Merin, Carin Stimolo, and Therese Bartolini (left to right) engaged in a holistic discussion about design and business, from how to protect your designs legally to how to have the best team.

More than 90 people gathered to peek behind the curtain of design with an insightful panel, comprised of designers and business professionals. 

Throughout the discussion, the analysis of each element was skillfully facilitated by Therese Bartolini, Product Design Director at Wayfair and our panel moderator. With nearly 20 years of using design and systems thinking to solve complex customer problems, Therese provided value to the overarching conversation of the design process. She was also familiar with the professional work and experience of each panelist ranging from experience design to patent prosecution, which allowed for deeper and more informed analysis as she leveraged the insight of each panelist. 

Panelist Carin Stimolo, Director of Design Strategy at Fidelity, stressed the importance of research for developing actionable strategies to guide design. She shared valuable advice on methods for incorporating user research into all phases of design and development using case studies from her current work at Fidelity Labs. She emphasized understanding your customer is essential to unlocking the real value of a design artifact. By understanding their actual needs and motivations, you’ll surface design trade-offs early and ultimately design more desirable products and services. 

KeyAnna Stimedl then carried the discussion to talent acquisition, advocating not only for inclusion but development of talent strategies during the early stages of the design process. As Global Head of Culture & Inclusion at Wayfair, KeyAnna firmly believes moving from “careful” to “thoughtful” conversations in the design realm is key to success, prioritizing a sense of belonging alongside results. Talent specialists have become critical in helping teams build diversity that underpins innovation and resilience, expanding the range of ideas and solutions explored.

In terms of the legal component of design, panelist Andrea Merin from Wolf at Greenfield & Sacks P.C. explains the impact it can have on viability, uniqueness, branding, and success for a business. Due to Andrea’s practice and background in design patent preparation, prosecution, and intellectual property (IP) due diligence, she oftentimes saw the effects of incorporating the legal implications of design decisions far too late in the process. She suggests teams approach design protection with intent, and consider legal before, during, and after the design phase. 

The UNITE panel truly challenged listeners to look past the finished product, at the fundamental elements that precede a design artifact: research, talent, and legal.