The Business Value of Design

Design in Business

Design isn’t just about creating things that look good. It’s about solving a problem in an appealing, functional way. And according to McKinsey’s recent report The Business Value of Design, it’s a good business idea. Their research indicates that businesses that invest in design thinking are twice as successful as those who don’t.

The challenge, however, is in being able to demonstrate the value of design. While many designers and companies are aware of the ROI that great design brings, selling it to consumers – or even to higher ups – isn’t always so easy.

Show, Don’t Tell

Designers and creative firms can do well to abide by the old creative writing mantra “show, don’t tell”. Rather than simply presenting a design or saying that there’s value to it, designers need to explain the what and the why of it. The more people understand your process, your reasoning, and your expertise, the more they’ll be on board with the solutions you propose.

For example, pitching Apple’s lightning cable over the standard USB was probably a no-brainer. Sure, the lightning cable required new design, new production, and a change from the standard. But it solves a major point of user friction – the fact that USBs are notoriously hard to insert correctly.

Speak Human

A central part of the design team’s job is to understand the consumer, as well as the bigger picture into which your solution fits. When selling a client or higher-up on a solution, communicate how it demonstrates understanding of an audience’s needs, goals, habits, and hangups. User profiles, stories and journey maps can help you visualize and showcase these concepts.

Take LEGO’s “experience wheel”, a simple but effective device that can be applied to any problem. The wheel follows the customer through every step of a problem, identifying changing sentiment along with make-or break-moments – each of which is ripe for disruption. Rather than simply designing a page, a feature, or a screen, the experience wheel puts humans at the center of both the problem and its solution.

ROI Isn’t Just About Money

It can be hard to put a number on the value of design. Sometimes the best designs aren’t best-sellers, while other times a big marketing budget or a first-to-market win can make a mediocre product wildly successful. When predicting or measuring the ROI of a design, look not just at your bottom line, but at the indirect benefits great design offers. A seamless solution that drives brand loyalty. Or a unique appearance that creates brand distinction. Or perhaps a luxurious take that positions your brand as a high-end contender. These are all types of ROI that for the benefit of both your client and your team you’ll want to find a way of identifying and measuring.

As creatives we know that there’s value to design, and the studies back us up. However, if we want to be given the opportunity to create great work that solves problems in a thoughtful, human way, we need to be able to communicate its value – both monetary and experiential.

For help with fostering a design thinking ethos in your organization, get in touch. We’re always happy to discuss design and how it can help you reach your goals.

See also:

Everyone Loves Your Brand: Designing for the Human Mind

The 8 Web Design Commandments That Will Deliver a Heavenly Website

Design & Leadership: Two Peas in a Pod

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