Design is often underestimated in the business world. It opens up valuable opportunities for your business and can bring some significant benefits.
The research and prototype stages of design can generate new product ideas and allow you to discover your customer’s needs and preferences. Design can then help you turn your ideas into innovative and competitive products and services that are suitable for your market.
Listed below are 7 different ways that design can benefit your business, from product development to business strategy.
It also outlines what’s involved in the design process, how you can manage the process and measure its success!
1. The Business Benefits of Design:
Evidence has been proven that using design improves your business performance. Businesses that undervalue the importance of design are missing vital opportunities. Design can bring a range of commercial benefits if used systematically across your business.
These benefits include:
• Increased sales of your products or services.
• Improved market position relative to your competitors.
• A stronger identity for your business.
• The ability to create new products and services and open up new markets.
With the effective use of design, you give your customers a reason to buy from you and not from your competitors. It’s a valuable source of differentiation from you and your competitors. The design also adds value to products and services. Customers are often willing to pay more for well-designed products that can offer them benefits such as greater usability, increased functionality, and improved aesthetics.
2. How Businesses Use Design
Design covers much more than just the outward appearance of products or the graphic elements of things such as your website, packaging, and marketing materials. It plays a part in nearly every aspect of what most businesses do.
In some areas, the importance of design is quite obvious – for instance, when a business creates a consistent look across its products, signage, stationery, and marketing activities.
Design can also be used to benefit your business in many less obvious ways. Remember that design isn’t just about managing the appearance of your business – it’s also about managing your business processes so they’re as cost-effective as possible.
Businesses use many types of design, among which:
• Product Design – including ergonomics
• Graphic Design – from manuals and marketing literature to signage and software interfaces
• Packaging Design
• Website and Interface Design
• Retail Design
3. Make Design Part of Your Business Strategy
Design is often seen as a finishing touch in product or service development, to be used after the strategy has been formulated, where key decisions have been made and budgets have been allocated.
Successful businesses include design as part of their business strategy from the beginning. This is because involving design at an early stage can save you money, resulting in a better offering, and a better experience for your customers.
Your first steps to using design more strategically include:
• Pinpointing where and how design is currently being used within your business.
• Identifying ways of improving the design process – such as increasing management involvement or using a professional design consultant.
• Looking for areas of your business where design opportunities are being missed.
• Making sure design considerations are featured in all your business planning meetings and documents.
• Conducting market research to ensure you know what your customers need
Business advisors with design knowledge can provide guidance on using design and working with designers.
4. Using Design to Improve Product Development
Obtaining research on what your customers want is an essential starting point in designing competitive products and services. The more you discover about your customer’s preferences from market research and design-led user research the more likely you are to design products that they will want to buy from you.
Product development involves the following steps:
• Carrying out user research.
• Developing a concept for a new or revised product.
• Drawing up an initial design.
• Identifying the people, materials, and processes required to produce it.
• Creating a prototype.
• Conducting user trials to evaluate the new product.
• Making revisions after the user trials and settling on a final design.
Remember that product development shouldn’t only be focused on your existing customers – it can also be used to help you target new customers and move into new markets.
5. Use Design to Win New Customers and Markets
Design can be a powerful means of retaining customers and positioning your business for a move into new potential markets.
Responsive businesses can use design methods and techniques to their advantages such as user research and prototyping – meaning to identify customer needs that aren’t being met and then create or refine a product or service to fill the gap in the market.
Businesses can use design in a variety of ways to appeal to new customers and build new markets.
• Designing prototype products that can be used to reveal customers’ needs and preferences and spark new ideas.
• Creating products incorporating trend research that anticipates and fulfills customer’s needs.
• Developing your business brand through packaging, graphics, and customer communication.
Design can also help you expand into foreign markets – perhaps by complying with different technical standards or by tailoring a product or its packaging to preferences in your target market.
Alongside winning new business, don’t forget the important role design can play in retaining your existing customers. Whether it’s a new product or a website redesign, fresh design can keep your customers interested, and help you contend with the competition.
The needs of customers can change, so the user observation, trend research, and prototyping that are part of the design process will help you keep in touch with your market.
6. The Design Process
The design process should be managed like any other business process. The key is to co-ordinate those involved such as Designers, Managers, and Owners with an insight into the project requirements to ensure that your use of design for your business delivers the outcome required at the cost you have budgeted.
Key tips for managing the design process:
• The design process should begin by clearly identifying the purpose and goal of the project. (Example, raising brand awareness, improving a product or service offering.)
• Carry out research both before and during the project. Keep focused on what your customers want.
• Ensure to work with a professional designer that understands what your business needs and wants are with the use of experience knowledge.
• Set a budget and a timetable with measurable targets.
• Choose your designer and prepare a design brief outlining the project’s aims, budget, timetable, and any legal, technical, or other constraints on developing the design.
• Make sure that your production, marketing, and sales departments are prepared for any new product, service, or branding you develop.
• Monitor the process as it develops – if the project deviates from the brief, investigate and make sure it’s for a good reason.
• Remember that your designs may result in intellectual property that needs protecting.
When the process is finished make sure you gather as much feedback as possible from those involved – it will help you run future design projects even more smoothly.
7. Maximise The Success of Your Design Projects
With any design project you undertake, you should set clear targets for measuring its success.
Customer responses are a crucial factor, for instance, if you design a new product or a new website interface, the key benchmark of its success will be determined by its performance in the market.
There is also a wide range of additional factors to consider when judging the success of your project:
• Cost – Did aspects of the design process like prototyping or user-testing go over budget? If so, why?
• Timetables – If deadlines were missed, was it because they were unrealistic, or were the delays avoidable?
• Working relationships – Did poor communication or other problems hinder cooperation between you and your designer?
Be specific when setting your targets and review the dates that you set out in your design brief. The more specific you are in what you require the more likely you are of reaping the return you want on your design investments.
If problems arise, deal with them as quickly as possible. Revise the design brief if important new information or priorities emerge – try not to get locked into a project that won’t deliver what you need.
After a design project has concluded, review it to see what lessons can be learned – this will make it easier to ensure the success of future projects. And don’t look at individual design projects in isolation – achieving your overall objectives may require a series of design investments to build on each other.