De­sign di­chotomy

De­sign­ers think what they do is im­por­tant: clients don’t

Finweek English Edition - - Communication & Technology -

DE­SIGN­ERS ARE a frus­trated lot. While they think de­sign is hugely im­por­tant to busi­ness suc­cess, their clients – who are pay­ing for it – don’t. A new sur­vey re­ports 84% in the mar­ket­ing field said de­sign was “ex­tremely im­por­tant” to eco­nomic growth. Good de­sign “does the job of chang­ing per­cep­tions and mind­sets”, said one en­thu­si­as­tic re­spon­dent.

How­ever, de­sign­ers and mar­keters don’t be­lieve that view is shared by the busi­ness com­mu­nity. Two-thirds of the most pos­i­tive peo­ple in the sam­ple com­plained clients lacked un­der­stand­ing about de­sign and failed to pro­vide recog­ni­tion for it. De­sign is per­ceived to be ex­pen­sive, short of skills and un­der-re­sourced.

It seems that for most peo­ple in busi­ness, good de­sign is nice to have but not viewed as a vi­tal busi­ness skill. We’re a long way from the kind of recog­ni­tion ac­corded to de­sign in Bri­tain, which un­der Tony Blair’s Labour gov­ern­ment be­came a de­sign-led econ­omy.

The sur­vey was con­ducted by Ip­sosMarki­nor on be­half of Think, the de­sign in­dus­try body. The prob­lem, it found, is that de­sign­ers don’t know how to prove their own worth. A sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the neg­a­tive de­ci­sion-mak­ers be­lieves the value of de­sign is poorly com­mu­ni­cated. That’s what it re­gards as its big­gest chal­lenge.

The sur­vey was con­ducted among 400 peo­ple work­ing in mar­ket­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and de­sign. So bear in mind it re­ports the de­sign­ers’ views on the one hand and, at a step re­moved, their per­cep­tion of their clients’ views on the other.

“We tend to be in­de­pen­dent and in­wardly fo­cused, con­cerned with our own is­sues rather than com­bin­ing and build­ing our ef­forts to drive a pro­fes­sional rep­u­ta­tion based on the im­pact we have on busi­ness and there­fore the econ­omy,” says Think chair Glenda Venn. “Other emerg­ing mar­ket play­ers, such as In­dia, have el­e­vated the sta­tus of pro­fes­sional de­sign to a level where they have a na­tional de­sign pol­icy.”

What’s clearly badly needed is the kind of em­pir­i­cal proof that the Bri­tish have. Ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tish De­sign Coun­cil, shares in de­sign-led busi­nesses have out­per­formed the Lon­don Stock Ex­change’s top 100 in­dex by more than 200% over the past decade.

In South Africa we have the be­lief but not the proof. The mar­keters and de­sign­ers them­selves be­lieve de­sign has a strong

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