Outcomes at the outset

Graphic designers are clearly stimulated by the creative process and frequently provide ‘effective design solutions’, but how often do they make a concerted effort to monitor the outcomes of their work, or provide any meaningful evidence of return on investment?

Business owners and marketers on the other hand, that engage the services of graphic designers, may also be stimulated by the creative process, yet they are absolutely focused on the outcome of their investment in design. So, whilst both sides work together with the common objective of a ‘positive outcome’, it could be said they have a somewhat different focus. The exception could be where a graphic designer is being remunerated on some sort of performance basis, which is rare in graphic design.

So what is effective design, and how do we know if and when it works?

Truth is, most design agencies (and their clients) can rarely answer this because the relationships invariably lack a business ‘metric’ to quantify if and how their work and design investment is effective.

To measure a design agency’s contribution to a business through design – something I call Applied Metrics – the client and the agency need to determine, in the initial briefing / pitching stages of a significant design investment, what an agency’s design input or end product is supposed to accomplish. And what should the basis for performance measurement be – quantitative / qualitative? This will depend on the project type and deliverables.

Design is not always measurable, however, with certain projects (that may be produced annually and where other potentially influential factors are known and taken into account) research can be undertaken both prior to the design conception stage and following project delivery to equip both agency and client with a comparable gauge on design effectiveness.

The downside here is planning in some time for research and perhaps the associated cost, but the upside of some metrics and ‘accountability in design’ has to be good for business. It should make the client’s investment in design more tangible, and it should strengthen an agency’s proposition and potential to win new client business.