Cre­ative ex­cel­lence isn’t ev­ery­thing. Laura Snoad de­con­structs four de­sign projects that more than paid for them­selves by boost­ing the client’s bot­tom line

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Cre­ative ex­cel­lence isn’t ev­ery­thing. Laura Snoad de­con­structs four de­sign projects that more than paid for them­selves by boost­ing the client’s bot­tom line

For a client, the suc­cess of a de­sign project usu­ally hinges not on ac­claim, but sums. No mat­ter how many Yel­low Pen­cils, so­cial me­dia men­tions or col­umn inches a project tots up, it’s hard for a client to see true value for money un­less the work boosts their prof­its by gen­er­at­ing cold, hard cash.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2013 re­port by the De­sign Coun­cil, for ev­ery £1 a client spends on de­sign, they reap over £4 in net op­er­at­ing profit, over £20 net turnover and over £5 in net ex­ports. The same study, Lead­ing Busi­ness by De­sign: Why and How Busi­ness Lead­ers In­vest in De­sign also re­veals that two-thirds of com­pa­nies that ig­nore de­sign have to com­pete mainly on price, whereas that’s true of only one third where de­sign is in­te­gral to the busi­ness.

To de­sign­ers, the ben­e­fits of cre­ative work are ob­vi­ous, but con­vinc­ing a client that it will yield a re­turn on in­vest­ment re­quires tan­gi­ble statis­tics from pre­vi­ous out­comes. How­ever, whether it’s a com­mer­cial cam­paign that shifted a larger than av­er­age vol­ume of prod­ucts, a char­ity cam­paign that raised a con­sid­er­able sum of money or a high-pro­file re­brand that can be cred­ited for help­ing re­verse the for­tunes of a busi­ness, mea­sur­ing ef­fec­tive­ness can be a slip­pery task. Part of the prob­lem is that de­sign work rarely ex­ists in a vac­uum. Sep­a­rat­ing the power of a well-timed re­brand from the ap­peal of a good prod­uct or ser­vice, and the con­sumer trends sur­round­ing it, is of­ten nigh on im­pos­si­ble. It might be pos­si­ble to mea­sure a pack­ag­ing over­haul on sales fig­ures, but a re­brand is an in­vest­ment that could take years to pay off – and some­times in ways that aren’t im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent or easy to mea­sure.

Ded­i­cat­ing some time to as­sess­ing brand health be­fore you even start think­ing about the cre­ative side is an in­vest­ment that will pay div­i­dends when it comes to mea­sur­ing how much you’ve im­proved a client’s bot­tom line. When it comes to qual­i­ta­tive data, in­ter­views and fo­cus groups that es­tab­lish de­sir­abil­ity, sat­is­fac­tion and aes­thet­ics are the key­stones of ROI mea­sure­ment, but when cal­cu­lat­ing bang for buck, quan­ti­ta­tive met­rics need to be finely tuned to the client’s busi­ness ob­jec­tives. “I think where de­sign fails a lot is where it doesn’t con­nect to or­gan­i­sa­tional goals,” says Hulse & Dur­rell part­ner Greg Dur­rell, whose re­brand of the Cana­dian Olympic Team led to over­whelm­ing fi­nan­cial and so­cial suc­cess. “If you start with aes­thet­ics and style, it’s not go­ing to cre­ate mean­ing­ful change. Know­ing where the busi­ness needs to go can re­ally help de­fine your path.”

How you de­fine suc­cess – as well as your ap­proach, and most likely the cre­ative it­self – is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent de­pend­ing on whether your client wants to sell more prod­ucts, break into a new mar­ket, in­crease its at­trac­tive­ness to spon­sors or buy­ers, cul­ti­vate brand loy­alty or am­plify so­cial me­dia clout. But re­mem­ber, the strength of a brand over­haul isn’t just in the fin­ished out­come, but in help­ing clients see their strengths and weak­nesses, and stream­lin­ing their op­er­a­tion through­out the process. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” adds Dur­rell. “Foun­da­tional brand­ing work is largely about the long-term goal, but what re­brands can do is be that ral­ly­ing point for an or­gan­i­sa­tion to change.”

Read on to dis­cover four ways in which de­sign can help con­trib­ute to a client’s fi­nan­cial health...

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