There are big elements of design and there are small elements. Both are necessary if you want to use design as an asset within your startup.
Design is the process of crafting with intention. This sets the trajectory for allowing design to be an integral part of your startup. In fact, it speaks to the idea that it should be intrinsically woven into every decision the company makes. If you act with the purpose of achieve a specific goal, you are designing. The opposite would be aimlessness or choosing to craft without purpose.
While such endeavors can lead to interesting results, it's not the best mindset to adopt with investors breathing down your neck or crucial deadlines looming int he background. Choosing to adopt a design-driven mindset is what allows you to measure progress and iterate with precision. In short, design turns wandering ideas into obtainable goals.
That's way different than making things prettier.
Yes, this concept tends to be confined within the areas of improving the aesthetic of apps, websites, interiors, products, or brand identities (a bunch of small elements), but these outlets don't give it power. Look beyond aesthetic and focus on creating things with purpose. How you want them to make people feel, what you want them to do, the goals a project is supposed to achieve.
I guess the main point is this: if you see design as only making things look pretty, even the things you want to look pretty will fall short of expectation. But, if you decide to see design as crafting with intention, you will be able to get results... and maybe make something beautiful int he process.
This will be simple.
If you want people to love your brand, don't give a half-assed effort into the design of it.
If you don't care, carry on as you have been.
A minor effort into a major problem is a recipe for disappointment.
Nothing is ever perfect. Every brochure, marketing collateral piece, logo, company name, website, all of them have things that could be better. Now, you have two choices: try and attain perfection, or make something good and prepare to iterate based on feedback.
You cannot keep throwing spaghetti at the wall and expect to go anywhere. You need to launch, get actual feedback, and then pivot.
Whatever you are working on, launch it. If it sucks, at least now you know and can change.