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Is Design Worth

The Expense?

March, 2017


This is perhaps the most common concern when I talk to business owners who seem to have the greatest need for good design. And it’s understandable. No one wants to throw money away, least of all a smaller business. So, the whole point comes down to this:


Can good design really grow your business? Is it a good investment?



Design can seem like something that would be "nice to have, but doesn’t really matter" on the list of things a business needs. But whether you invest in good design or not, you’re communicating something to people. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, said this, "Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room." Brand is certainly made up of more than design, but it's a very important part of the brand experience your customers have with you. So what is your visual brand communicating to people about your business?


Let's say you're a dentist or maybe an auto mechanic—you may be wondering if design would matter to your business. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Before someone entrusts their oral health or their car into your care, they want to know you’re qualified, professional, and you will deal with them with integrity, among other things. While design obviously can’t give those qualities to your business, it can help communicate your best attributes in a meaningful way. Think about design less as typography, color, imagery, etc. and look at it more as a very powerful communication tool.


Consider the direct mail pieces that come into your mailbox on a typical day. Regardless of the product or service offered, what makes certain businesses (especially those you haven't heard of before) stand out as more professional or expert in their offerings? Maybe the photography used is well lit and professionally arranged? Maybe the fonts and color selection evoke a certain feeling that gives you visual cues about who they are? Maybe the information you want is easy to locate and follow? Maybe their logo looks polished? You may have never thought about why one ad might be more appealing than another, or why you feel like one business seems more capable, but design can make an enormous difference in your audience's perceptions and beliefs about your business.


Now look at those ads from your mailbox that look less professional. Perhaps there's too much information crammed on the page. It may be difficult to sort out who they are or their logo design is more of a deterrent than something that instills confidence. It's likely that the less professional mail pieces cost the business less money in design services or quality of materials. But if you were a likely candidate to need/want their goods or services, and their ad didn't instill a confidence in you that motivated you to do business with them, then perhaps there wasn't a real money savings to them after all.


Perhaps you have a product or service that is superior in many ways to your competition. But how will we know it? What do they see in what your business projects? Is it clear why you’re the right choice? Design can help you tell that story in a meaningful way.


Like any investment, there's always an element of risk involved. But taking no risk at all just ensures that there will be little potential for gain. Sometimes you just have to step out to find out what's possible. When my marketing colleague at Micron wanted to try something new and novel at an upcoming trade show, the idea of doing a bacon-scented t-shirt didn't garner a great deal of support from the team. It was very different than anything we had done before and his team worried it might make us look foolish. Reluctantly they allowed us to try it. With the bacon theme in mind, I was able to create some eye-catching graphics for the campaign that tied in the important key messages about the technology in an unexpected, playful way that garnered a response from show attendees that far surpassed what we had even hoped for. The campaign saw over 31,000 tweets, dramatically increased booth traffic, doubled the time a visitor stayed in the booth, and the number of leads rose by an astonishing 48 percent over the show a year before. We later were honored with a Sizzle Award by EXHIBITOR MAGAZINE for the success of that campaign. So, a little calculated risk + thoughtful strategy + good design paid real, measurable dividends for Micron. And it can for you too.


The important thing is to start. Begin by talking to an experienced graphic designer that can bring good design and thoughtful strategy together to create powerful, meaningful communications for your business. Even beginning with something small can begin to move your business forward. I've got more than 20 years of design experience and am a thoughtful strategist that can help you identify opportunities you may not have considered before. I'd love to show you what great design can do for your business!

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