A roundup of industry expertise, exclusive resources, business support and tools for your design business.
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The most persuasive way of communicating the value of design is by measuring its effectiveness.
“The impact of design is often undervalued and /or overlooked, when in fact it can have a transformative effect on the success of a business,” says Paula Quazi, Co-founder of eco-cleaning brand smol. “Finding ways to evaluate and quantify the impact of design is critically important to enable us all to learn how to harness and maximise what is often an under-utilised marketing lever.”
Design can enhance customer service, drive job creation, deliver efficiencies, improve profitability and much more. Companies that excel at design grow revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry peers* and yet, according to the Design Council, 32% of businesses still don’t use design**.
“All of business is a bunfight for resource,” reflects eve sleep’s CEO Cheryl Calverley. “We know how vital design and design thinking is to driving growth and business success, because we live and breathe the industry, seeing the impact it makes, day in and day out. But others will not see or feel this,” Calverley adds. “Evidence is key to stand toe-to-toe with the other resource demands in an organisation and ensure the right emphasis is placed on careful, strategic and impactful design.”
“For me, evidencing the value of design is a critical part of our craft,” says Andy Young, Chief Experience Officer at Lloyds Banking Group. “We have to be comfortable finding ways to measure, monitor, assess and evaluate the impact our work is having on the world. We also need to make sure we’re measuring the right things, at the right time.”
“Having evidenced impact is what gets design into the boardroom, and helps it stay there,” says Andreas Roos, Head of Design Strategy at Visa. Something Diageo’s Global Design Director, Jeremy Lindley echoes; “Producing evidence of the impact of design builds confidence in its role and ensures a business knows where to prioritise investment.”
There’s no doubt the value of design is worth shouting about. “Design is often the very reason something is solved or achieved,” says Arup’s Head of Brand and Creative, Nigel Morris. “Without evidence of its impact, it can be overlooked or diminished when it must be recognised and celebrated.”
The DBA Design Effectiveness Awards has been celebrating and championing effective design since 1989. Any type of design in any industry sector can be entered, so long as you have the measured proof that design made a clear and significant contribution to the results achieved by the work.
“Most design awards are judged on aesthetic appeal,” says Lindley, “what sets the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards apart is the focus on business performance. To win an award you need to prove the link between creativity and meeting or exceeding the objectives of the project.”
The awards are not about “the size of budgets or how beautiful the work looks”, highlights Carlsberg’s Global Design Director, Peter Barwick, they’re about “how the role of design plays an integral part in transforming a business”. “It’s a privilege to be a judge for DBA Design Effectiveness Awards and represent Lloyds Banking Group,” adds Young. “I’m looking forward to meeting other judges, but most excited to see some of the great work happening across our industry.”
“Craft a simple, factual but compelling story,” says Morris, who suggests asking “would it be as compelling without images?”
“Identify your objectives clearly, with metrics and strong reasoning as to the commercial imperative,” adds Calverley. “Explain the role of design, and design thinking in meeting those objectives, and be honest about the role investment in other activities and channels has to play in their success. And finally,” she says, “wrap it all up in a bow with a clear definition of how you reached, or indeed exceeded those objectives.”
“I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to review the best work in the industry,” finishes Quazi, “and to understand and evaluate with the other judges how it delivered true competitive advantage for the business.”
To put your design work in the frame for a 2023 DBA Design Effectiveness Award download an entry pack today and enter by 5pm GMT on Friday 4 November 2022. The DBA can help support you in choosing the project to enter which stands the best chance of winning. Full details and entry pack are available here.
The Judging Panel: Judges are CEOs and leading figures from design commissioning businesses across industry and have been carefully chosen for their business experience and acumen, as well as their understanding of how design can – and does – create change in business and society. View the full judging panel here.
In tough times, what are the two or three things you can do or put in place to stay on the front foot?
Try hard not to overreact. See the data, don’t overanalyse it and work out how to get through. Keep cash balances high. And be thoughtful about what you’re not doing – e.g. over-hiring – and thoughtful about what your are doing – e.g. lead generation.
Which data should we be looking at?
Not the data from the labour market or the larger macro economic indicators. Focus on reading the signals you’re getting from your clients and your lead generation pipeline. Unless you’re horizontally positioned.
What do those signals look like?
The slow roll out of something that’s been in the offing for a while. If you hear pause, overinterpret that, as it will probably be cancelled. Or late payment – make sure you stay on top of that. Or perhaps a client has decided to freeze hiring, or has decided against going to an international show they usually go to.
How do you develop your teams’ capabilities to read those signals?
Make sure you have the right people in touch with / face-to-face with clients – it doesn’t matter if they have the account management title. These people a) have a track record of growing the account, meaning they can ensure the client doesn’t pare back too much, and b) have historically been good at reading the signals. This might not be someone who is fantastic at project management, as they tend to focus on other things. If you don’t have someone like this, then you need to step in and get involved before the relationship goes wrong.
Is diminishing marketing spend a signal?
It is possible that you’ll see marketing spend as a percentage of overall sales dropping, but overinterpreting that signal means that you’re not understanding how that spend breaks down. A lot of the cut in spending would be on media spend or other marketing spend, rather than fee spend.
What are your priorities as a leader at times like this?
Really great leadership is about knowing why you exist, being clear and communicating that, and preserving the business and its health even when you have to make some really tough calls. So that means having a constant commitment to new business: not being interchangeable in the market place, knowing who the ideal fit client is for you and having even just a basic marketing plan that is spinning all the time.
So how do we keep our cool and maintain perspective through tough times?
You need to look at the big picture and be flexible enough so that when the drop in revenue comes you still have what it takes to get the next year through – stay focussed on staffing and new business.
You’ve talked about the vital importance of positioning, and in desperate times there’s a danger of being tempted to lower standards and take on opportunities that aren’t the right fit. How do you avoid doing that?
This is where it’s helpful to be intentionally flexible as a leader – if you don’t have enough work as you’d like for your people and you don’t want to make redundancies, if something comes along that wouldn’t normally fit, it’s ok to take that work. It’s just not ok to not be honest about it – don’t fool yourself that you’ll turn that client into the right fit. And involve the staff in the decision so they understand. Also be prepared to step in if the opportunity results in any disruption.
There might be times when the owner of the business needs to take time out – what would you have in place that would enable that to happen with ease?
You need to build that into your firm with a systems driven approach so that other people can easily step in and work the system. So that you don’t have those single points of failure.
What is your advice to really small businesses?
Don’t pay off any debt early – make the minimum payments. Don’t take on any new debt. Always have a spun up marketing plan running. Have 6-12 months of cash set aside at any given point. And take advantage of the fact that you’re so nimble and you can attack things really quickly, which larger organisations can’t. Do the right things and sleep well at night, and if the business struggles still, don’t beat yourself up about it. It involves luck too. You folks are smart and hardworking and you’re alternately employable. It’s easy in a discussion like this to think of the enemy as out there; the economy or the client. I think the enemy is largely within; your ability to make good decisions under pressure, keep an even keel, and be disciplined in doing the right things. Look to your own leadership, not so much what’s happening in the marketplace.
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