How does design affect my business?

How does design affect my business?

By Dan Bradfield

How does design affect my business?

Former IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr. once declared that ‘Good design is good business’. 

As a business, we are driven by our mission to have a positive impact on every business and organisation that we have the pleasure of working with. At the risk of repeating ourselves, you can read more about that here if you like. 

But, looking at the bigger picture, the overall positive impact of design on business is increasingly being realised. In October last year, global research and consultancy company McKinsey released a report titled ‘The Business Value of Design’, which detailed the findings from 300 companies, spanning CPG, medical technology and retail banking industries, over a 5 year period – with the aim of answering the question: 


“How do the best design performers increase their revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry counterparts?”


The report found that the companies they surveyed that sat in the top quartile of their Design Index scoring, generated 32 per cent more revenue and 56 per cent more shareholder returns than rivals over a five-year period.

"The companies that achieved the best financial returns in the McKinsey survey were those with a bold, user-centric vision that had embedded design in the planning at the top and used robust design metrics to monitor customer satisfaction," the consultancy said.

One of the key areas of the Design Index was assessment of design performance at the same level as financial performance. In other words, design becoming a top-management issue, rather than a siloed department with no measuring or accountability for performance. Ben Sheppard, partner at McKinsey identified a key insight:


"Design has gone from being a middle-management topic to a senior management topic." 


The value of such insights are highlighted in the report, whereby an online gaming company experienced a 25% increase in sales, following a small usability design tweak on their homepage. 

The other three key drivers for design-influenced success were:

  • Continuous development and innovation in design, adopting a 'never finished' attitude which involves listening, testing and iterating.
  • Making design part of the business as a whole and everyone’s responsibility, not siloed as a separate department.
  • Finally, a real understanding of the customer wants and needs, not the product itself. 

It was a high-rating in these areas that identified the top-performing companies in the McKinsey Design Index, and those which outperformed their industry peers, as much as 108% in one industry, and also industry benchmark growth by as much as two to one. 

That's very interesting, but how does it relate to us specifically?

As an agency, we are more focused than ever on delivering success for our customers.  For many, this is being able to show a clear return on investment. 

For digital projects this is straightforward with clear metrics on website performance, email performance and advertising. 

But design is often not given the same level of attention. To us this doesn’t make sense, we want our design to be accountable. Why? Because it allows us to show the value of great design, and it also allows us to learn and develop. 

We are extremely keen at the start of any project to sit down and have an open and honest discussion about measuring success. 

Viewing design as an integral part of the business/marketing process will allow design to perform considerably better and, from our perspective, allow for greater accountability towards results.  

It is at this point design can become an investment rather than a cost.