Design Factsheets

The overriding reason for investing in design is to increase profit, while enhancing your relationships with customers and suppliers. It can also be gauged by an increase in the take-up of services, the creation of better products that enjoy better market share and a decrease in the number of customer complaints. For most businesses, though, this gain has to be commercial and evident in increased turnover, profit, or market share, as well as ensuring that existing customers do not switch to other suppliers

Targets and evaluation

So, your design projects should include performance targets just like any other activity. Once set, the targets will allow you to monitor your achievement and evaluate your success. It is only possible to evaluate design investment if targets are in place throughout your project, letting you track the actual impact of the project. When setting these targets, there is a golden rule to remember. A project is measured on cost, quality and time to completion. When completing a project, one of the three usually has to be sacrificed.

Business objectives

Set your performance targets as part of your design brief and ensure that these are acknowledged in the proposal from the designer. The brief should also include a clear statement of the business objectives behind the project, which again should be acknowledged in the proposal. Where possible try and set quantifiable goals (like design resource, capital budget, profit margins, units sold, annual growth in sales and increase in market share), as well as descriptive ones.

Build in review dates throughout the project, where you can monitor your achievement against expenditure and time. It is good to have formal as well as informal reviews, so you can get other people involved and keep them informed about progress.

With each design project you should work with your chosen designer to see how you can reduce the time between starting the project and delivering the finished product or service. If you take past timescales as the norm, you may find your competitors beat you to it, as the pace of design change is constantly accelerating. But good, effective design does take time – so don’t cut corners with time at the expense of quality.

Have your say

You should also bear in mind that you as the client will have a considerable input and that your decision-making time will influence the speed of the project. When building in your decision-making time, your business needs must be taken into account (and the project managed accordingly), but you must also bear in mind other demands on your time. Be realistic.

If you fall behind your schedules or start to run over budgeted costs then you may well have to re-appraise your project. Deviation from your plans could affect your marketing, pricing and launch plans, so it is essential that you manage the process yourself to lessen the chance of this happening, and be forewarned if it actually does.

An ongoing process

It is very unlikely that all of your strategic objectives will be delivered through investment in one project. Creating better business processes through effective design is an ongoing project, involving a series of investments in design. These may be needed over a period of time and could include your products and services, your communication material and your working environment.

You can use design to improve your business through the products and services you offer, and you can double its effectiveness by planning for and using design strategically. By thinking the big design picture, rather than focussing on one single product or service, you can link together all of the parts of your company that benefit from design and create a powerful business response that is irresistible to your customers.

Get free local design advice at your Business Link, or visit the Design Council web site.

‘Creating better business processes through effective design is an ongoing project, involving a series of investments in design.’

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