Design as an investment – not as an expense

Good design is worth paying for and should be viewed as an investment, not simply as an added cost or expense. As a graphic designer, I firmly believe that good design will pay for itself in folds. I hold this view not because I am dependent upon it for my salary, but more importantly, because there is data that supports it. Consider the following information from the Design Council:

More than eight out of ten design-led companies have introduced a new product or service in the last three years, compared to just 40 per cent of UK companies overall. 83% of companies in which design is integral have seen their market share increase, compared to the UK average of 46%.

Design is integral to 39% of rapidly growing companies but to only 7% of static ones.

80 per cent of design-led businesses have opened up new markets in the last three years. Only 42% of UK businesses overall have done so.

And consider the following viewpoint offered by George Fisher, former CEO, Kodak:

In the end, what customers really see is what designers design. That is the ultimate tool that a company has in order to be competitive in the marketplace.

My own experience as a graphic designer reflects the ideas presented by the Design Council and George Fisher. For example, I have a particular client with whom I have been working since 2003. When I first met up with this client, a London-based charity, they had no concept of the need for quality design and it showed. Their promotional materials lacked clarity and focus and a basic level of presentability. Their website was poorly organised. The charity was little-known, with a very low profile.

In the four years that I have worked with my client on its promotional and informational materials, the charity’s profile has risen dramatically. The organisation has come to the attention of 10 Downing Street (in a very positive light) and has shown an exhibition about its work and those it helps in not only the Brunei Gallery, SOAS at the University of London, but also in the Houses of Parliament. Through its website, the charity raises upwards of £10,000 or more per year. The organisation has produced short movies, a book and educational materials, all of which have increased its ability to fulfil its mission.

It would be overly stating it to argue that the design of these various materials is the sole reason for the success of my client. Of course not. Yet the design did play a key role. As I always stress to my clients: You may have the most important message in the world and you may be doing the best work in your particular field, but unless we can entice others to read and learn about it – no one will know. We’ll be the best kept secret in the world. That is where design earns its keep. It is quality graphic design that encourages people to pick up that brochure, surf through that website and learn more about the organisation.

Quality graphic design must be viewed as an integral element to the success of any charity or business.