Why return on investment in design is gaining so much traction in modern age business?

In a competitive environment, a brand not just needs to position itself differently from its competitors but it should be able to create the right image in the audiences’ mind.

Design plays an important role in creating the desired personality of a brand by communicating the values that a business stands for. If utilised strategically, investment in design may bring in significant growth to a business.

Design is not just what it looks like, design is how it works. – Steve Jobs

Though many of us may not believe that investment in design may yield some good returns but here’s a story that proves it right.

Starbucks, a premium cafe chain as we all know was not this popular when it started. It was seen as a boring coffee shop that used to remain empty most of the times. To turn it around, the management decided to reposition the brand as one that not just serves coffee but an experience. They turned it into a place where people feel like coming and spending time together. To achieve this, they gave Starbucks a new identity that would be applied across all its touch points starting from packaging to the in-store graphics and ambience.

The idea was to position Starbucks as a place where people meet over a cup of coffee and love to spend time. This was implemented by revamping the cafe’s atmosphere where design played a vital role.

Return on investment in design for functional vs visual design

Functional design is the faculty of design that takes care of the functional aspects of a tangible or digital product when it is being created. It has its impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the performance of a product or service. Whereas,  visual design aims at engaging the user by the application’s visual elements such as illustrations, photographs, type, space, layout and colour and improving its aesthetic appeal.

Many people assume design for its functional aspects only. But restricting design to the functional aspects of a product would be underestimating the power of visual design which is as important as functional design to deliver a complete experience.

Measuring the return on investment for a functional design, industrial product or a digital product like an app or a website is easy as it can be calculated by the increase or decrease in the number of sales or conversions. But in terms of visual design, return on investment in design cannot be measured and noted in figurative or numerical values. As a result, many organisations overlook or fail to notice the return on investment in design generated by visual design as it does not come out as direct monetary revenue.

The quantitative impact of visual design can be roughly estimated by calculating the increase in the number of new customers, repeated sales or increase in followup and fanbase. But measuring the qualitative impact is highly subjective based on the enhancement of user satisfaction and the desirability of the brand. Which is why not many organisations seem to be interested in speculating or monitoring the return on investment in visual design.

Design is more of a conversation than a monologue. – Kelli Anderson

Kelli Anderson is a known British artist, designer and author who has worked as an early design innovator for Adobe.

It is critical to address that design should be looked upon as a foundation that will shape a product, its quality and effectiveness. In terms of visual design, a logo is not just a mark of distinction but a portrayal of the entire brand personality that sets the desired brand image. Similarly, a website or an application is an expression of how a company would communicate with its customers.

Design provides a competitive edge to a business if used strategically. It can be adopted in all dimensions of a business be it branding, marketing, product innovation or product creation.

Investment in design improves brand perception

Design allows a brand to connect better with the target audience by portraying a personality that the audience can resonate with.

The aspirations of the audience keep changing with the change in their needs and desires. Brands that constantly update their personality with the updating trends always remain associated with their customers.

Brands like Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola keep refurbishing their visual communication time and again. Consequently, design prevents brands from getting obsolete and enables businesses to remain in the game for long.

When a brand is perceived to be serious, determined and working hard on its own self, the perception of the brand in the minds of the customers keeps getting better.

Investment in design improves the customer experience

Design has the power to provide valuable experiences to its customers. The aesthetics of a product is as important as the experience it creates. Design is not just working on the functional aspects of a product but also the look and feel of it which results in creating a unique personality and experience.

Look at Tez, the latest payment portal app launched by Google. It’s a great example of functional and visual design that lead to an outstanding customer experience. The use of colours and elements in the visual communication add to the experience of the application as much as the interactions designed for a good usability.

Investment in design empowers a customer-centric approach

Many of us might be having a common misconception about design that makes us see it as beautification only. But that’s not the case if seen carefully. Design has played an important role in product innovation.

Design is a tool that should be considered when aiming at providing a solution to the customers’ problems and needs. As technology is reaching the peak of advancement, design is acting as one of its best companion supporting technology to come up with innovative products and product features.

Innovation in digital products has been always assisted by back-end technology. But design has facilitated a new way of looking at consumer needs and resolving them better.

Investment in design gives the opportunity of pricing products better

Design can be used as a criterion for differentiating a product from its competition. Today, user experience and customer satisfaction possess more value than ever before. A good experience makes a product desirable and hence, the customers are willing to pay a premium price for it. Pricing products or services at a premium price point results in higher profits.

The changing perception about design

The bond between design and technology is only growing stronger and is governing major decisions of many businesses. Design has now become an added advantage to tackle commoditisation. As a result, the phenomena is taking a shift from engineering-led businesses to design-led businesses.

The reason behind it is that technology has now almost reached its highest point. One of the major cause that is making technology seem to be still growing is the intervention of design into it. Startups like Pinterest have already set up a mark globally by playing cleverly with their design sense.

The Design In Tech Report 2017 by John Maeda highlights the fact about how design is essential for future businesses. The report displays how global unicorns like Facebook, Google and Amazon have collectively grown their design team by 65 per cent in the past one year and are looking ahead to expand more.

Here’s an infographic taken from the design in tech report 2017 which represents the same.

Takeaway: Good Design is Good Business

The impact of design does not just limit to brand perception but extends to brand loyalty. Customers tend to stay with brands that make them feel good and important. Good Design helps in changing the perception of a brand not only by its visual communication but also by the experience it provides which in turn offers more value.

Design capabilities also foster higher investments which further translate into business growth. Early design adoption within a business brings in a greater return on investment in design by changing the brand perception and uplifting customers’ loyalty by upgrading them from product adopters to product influencers.

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