How do we quantify the value of good design?

It’s quite easy to say that good design has a positive effect on a business, but how do we quantify that? The ultimate question to ask is ‘Does good design bring profit or recognition superior to the average in the industry’. If you consider the world’s most innovative companies it’s quite clear to see that they place design at the very core of their organisation. Design is not an after-thought or late stage activity, but it is integral to driving strategy across all areas of the business.

Graphic design is very much a mix of ‘art’ and ‘business’.  The best graphic designers combine artistic skills with the knowledge that we are not doing this for ourselves, but for our clients. I had a good friend at school who was a brilliant painter, but would only paint what he wanted, not what other people might have wanted him to paint. The idea of accepting a commission to paint someone’s portrait, or cat or dog or house was completely alien to him. That is at the opposite end of the spectrum to design. Designers are paid to solve other people’s problems.

If I didn’t believe in the value of good design I would do something else in life. But I strongly believe that design has the power to give companies a competitive advantage and to add value to their business. Businesses that invest in high-quality design perform better and are more able to secure investment and increase market share. The Design Council’s 2012 report Design delivers for business, identifies the following:

  • Design increases turnover: For every £1 invested in design, businesses can expect over £20 in increased revenues
  • Design is linked to profit: For every £1 invested in design, businesses can expect over £4 increase in net operating profit
  • Design boosts exports: For every £1 invested in design, businesses can expect a return of over £5 in increased exports


How can design give companies a competitive advantage?

  • Design is a differentiator. Good design can be a source of competitive advantage, through brand equity, customer loyalty, price premium or customer orientation.
  • Design is a motivator. Staff can be motivated by brilliant design, and this will often be reflected in their performance. A strong brand has the power to influence a workforce.
  • Design is good business. It can lead to new business opportunities, increased sales, better margins, higher brand value, greater market share, and a better return on investment.

Many of the most successful companies think of design as an investment and not a cost. After all, saving on design costs might be the most expensive decision you make.