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How design helps business

June 2, 2010

Understanding the vital role of design isn’t easy
Business and organisations of all size, operation and disciplines often find it difficult to choose the right design company for a given project. It’s easy to understand why, as our perception of professional design is relative, subjective and elusive;  the professional application of design even more so.

As consumers and business users we are surrounded by professional design, yet in many ways graphic design is a ‘closed shop’. Design isn’t validated, certified or regulated in any meaningful way, with awards ceremonies celebrating great design and creative excellence typically being low profile, industry-only events.

As an art form or professional creative discipline, design doesn’t permeate  public consciousness in the same way that fashion, art, theatre and film is celebrated and revered. Though we are surrounded by design and feel its effect upon us, so few people understand the language, culture, significance and effect that good design has on us, and more importantly, the way this influences our consumer behaviour and spending patterns.

“As consumers and business users we are surrounded by professional design, yet in many ways graphic design is a closed shop.”

The commissioning of design can therefore be an arduous process for the uninitiated, with the specific discipline of design often subsumed into broader marketing campaigns for the purpose of strategy and discussion. Even whilst pitching for work many design companies are primarily (and somewhat understandably) concerned with conveying their suitability, qualifications and expertise, rather than discussing the fundamental aspects of good design within business operation, and in the context of good design management.

I know this from personal experience most noticeably with new clients, some of whom have little or no experience in commissioning design, writing a brief or articulating their requirements. There’s often strong recognition of a need but little understanding beyond this, which is understandable. Perhaps one of the most important qualities a designer can posses is the ability to understand a client’s needs.

Good management of client expectation and a clear framework surrounding this process is crucial to successful project management and client-customer satisfaction. Personally, I often invest considerable time at project inception explaining to, and educating clients not just about their return on investment (ROI) or potential business growth, but also about the benefits of industry standard approach, the end result of which is maximum design efficacy and client satisfaction within budget and project timeline. For many reasons it’s not always an easy task; sometimes designers misadvise clients through lack of experience or from wanting to do only want they’re good at, for example inappropriate use of Flash. Sometimes companies do not want to advised even if their current practice is counter productive or unnecessarily costly. Often, those called upon to guide and advise clients simply aren’t up to the task, or see no reason to do so. More simply, the human condition is often unreceptive or resistant to change.

It’s encouraging therefore to see The Design Council not just championing professional design, but providing extremely useful advice, guidance and support both to clients and designers alike. I’ve attended and networked at their events and hold their organisation and what they do in high regard. Their resources for those looking to commission design work or navigate the arduous process of finding a suitable designer or creative professional are concise, insightful and accessible. In short, highly recommended by this designer.

Further reading (external links):
What is design and why it matters
How design helps leading companies meet business challenges
Free Guides for small businesses
Design Council video on vimeo

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