An indispensable tool for connecting entrepreneurs to organizations providing business assistance in Detroit.
In early 2016, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation asked us to redesign the Detroit BizGrid. For many Detroit entrepreneurs and businesses, the BizGrid became an indispensable tool after its release in 2013. Originally designed as a single-page matrix, BizGrid lists organizations capable of providing assistance to businesses who find themselves at 3 stages of readiness: as an idea, a start-up, or an established venture.
To evolve the BizGrid into a tool that was both accessible and robust enough to capture the city’s growing number of service providers, we decided to start by asking some questions. A lot of questions.
We began with a series of workshops that brought together non-profit leaders, small businesses, and social enterprises. During these workshops, participants shared their observations about the BizGrid; everything from its size and portability to its more functional qualities. Through these meetings, we realized that BizGrid (while loved) had room for improvement. Conversations revolved around color, iconography, trim-size, and gestures that would help improve its intuitiveness for non-english speakers. Each conversation brought more ideas and with every pass, a new iteration of the grid was placed before the group for critique.
Over a 6 month period, additional workshops helped us hone in on flaws that seemed invisible at first. During one collaborative exercise at Detroit Start-Up Week, participants helped to shape decisions that balanced the functional needs of the user with the look and feel of the Grid. Readers pointed towards the original 2013 BizGrid’s tendency to overcomplicate directions by using exclusive and confusing language. Others found its size and iconography bewildering. More questions followed and with it, more drafts, more folding techniques, and more sketches to optimize how information would be re-framed.
The BizGrid organizes Detroit service providers into 8 unique categories: Legal, Licensing, and Permitting, Research and Development, Workforce Development, Financial Management, Funding, Space, Business Planning and Strategy, and Sales and Marketing. The original Grid used icons in miniature to teach readers how to match their needs to specific providers. Sometimes this was a cause for confusion; readers expressed frustration trying to interpret icons that were detailed but forced into tiny spaces. Based on these concerns, we developed a new visual vocabulary that recasts each icon to be friendly but expressive to speedy readers in search of assistance.
The BizGrid’s overhaul represents a meaningful collaboration between the DEGC and the public. Through an intentional set of design workshops, shared insights, and careful planning, the new BizGrid puts helpful information into the hands of the entrepreneur when they need it most. Suddenly the experience of starting a business is made a little less intimidating. Readers are empowered to form tangible connections with service providers that can support their needs as they scale. These gestures are small but mighty. To make this tool widely accessible, the BizGrid is also free to download through its companion site. Visit detroitbizgrid.com to learn more.