What Is the True Value of Design?

While many organizations have attempted to answer this question, it has been years since anyone has derived a concrete number for design’s true value. Since design-focused companies, such as Apple and Coca-Cola, have seen huge success throughout hundreds of years, we’ve been long curious for research backed proof that design is a substantial contributor to their success. 

Without a doubt, funneling dollars into design has an incredible and profitable pay off for businesses. Placing a heavy emphasis on quality design is known to attract customers, increase visibility, and enhance brand awareness. Visual design allows audiences to better navigate and understand companies, and is a huge way of drawing audiences in. Just look at all the heavily design-conscious companies and the success their design dollars, time, and marketing efforts have brought them. In fact, according to this study, design conscious companies experience more than double the pay off in comparison to other companies not focused on design.

In the past 10 years, design-driven companies outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 – a stock market index of 500 large publicly traded companies—by 228%. Among these design-driven companies were: Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford, Herman-Miller, IBM, Intuit, Newell-Rubbermaid, Nike, Procter & gamble, Starbucks, Starwood, Steelcase, Target, Walk Disney, and Whirlpool. 

What does this mean? The Design Management Institute, a nonprofit focused on design management, partnered with Motiv Strategies to derive the Design Value Index, a value-weighted according to market capitalization data from the close of business on the last trading day of June and December in the the years 2003 through 2013. The selection criteria focused on inclusion of the following:

  1. Publicly traded in the U.S. for 10+ years
  2. Scale of design organization and deployment is an integrated function and organizational catalyst for change
  3. Growth in design-related investments and influence have increased over time
  4. Design is embedded within the organizational structure
  5. Design leadership is present at senior and divisional levels
  6. There is a senior-level commitment to design’s use as an innovation resource and integrative force for positive change

How can design add such a significant value to both large and small enterprises? While great design helps to beautifully brand companies, it ultimately leads to a more aesthetically pleasing, enjoyable, and applicable product or service. Increasing thought and efforts into your companies design at all levels ensures a smoother user experience and benefits the consumer. A simple, aesthetically pleasing experience, combined with creative and engaging visual content is the key recipe to lure customers in and create brand loyalty.

Visual communication is the easiest and most appealing way to break through the noise and resonate with your customers. Visual informational is processed much easier by the human eye, is key to story telling, and evokes customer’s emotions – a crucial part of marketing and building your brand. Good design comes from understanding your audience and giving them what they want before they even know they want it. If you can understand your customers needs, build a design-focused strategy at all levels of your business, you are paving the way to a successful product or service. If you don’t believe it, now there is even hard proof that design-focused companies more than double in performance. Clearly, design is setting the bar and they key to taking a company to the next level. The question is, how are you going to become more design focused?

Get to to investing more thought into new ways of creating great design, and your company could see a huge jump just like the companies in this study.








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