Design is Really Business Risk Management

When I talk to clients about budgets required to bring good design to the table, I get a lot of interesting looks and comments from them that imply one thing: they feel that design is a risky part of their business.
You see, what business people have at the back of their mind is that they never really know what they are going to get at the end of the day. Can the design be manufactured or will it sell? As a result clients often have that nagging feeling that the money they are going to spend on design is going to disappear and become a complete waste.
But is Design really that risky? Not really, as with most things, it’s how you approach it that makes the difference.
Unfortunately businesses go all funny when it comes to talking about money. As a business owner, I don’t blame them and can understand how they feel. In most instances though, convincing the Business is almost always about education and a change in mindset. If they can understand the rewards and the value of a good design, then you have an easier time selling it.
The first reframe is that design should be seen as an investment, not a cost. Once people understand this, investing in design becomes no different to investing in anything else for the business, such as human resource, computers or even water coolers. Suddenly, we can comfortably say that doing nothing or not investing in strategic design is far more risky.
Noticed, I slipped in the word strategic design?

Good Design is Good Business
Everyone knows this, so repeating this does sound like I’m flogging a dead horse. But the problem here is the definition of design. Many businesses still view design as only a surface or material treatment with can only lead to a pure aesthetic discussion. It is from this viewing of design’s value so superficially that makes design risky.
It is only when design becomes strategic, that it becomes good business.

Strategic Design is Risk Management
The reality is that good design implemented strategically, is probably one of the smartest thing you can do in managing the risks of new product development. You have to design your new products anyway, why not make the design effort strategic?
So then how does strategic design reduce risk?
Strategic design embeds its activity within the business by firstly understanding its needs, and then taking a user centered approach when implementing the design solution. As a result, strategic design is able to generate valuable (user resonating) insights that allow businesses to make more informed and less risky decisions.
It’s as simple as that.

  • Daniel

    July 16, 2011 at 4:40 am Reply

    Good design is good business, Apple exemplifies this theory. Not only is there products uniquely designed, but every touch point you have with their company. Starting with packaging, store front, website to printed materials. I have seen articles that claimed that consumers will base 65% of the credibility of your product on design alone.

  • Ajay

    June 24, 2011 at 7:27 pm Reply

    Good Design is Good Business
    That is all this needs to be said

  • Ken

    June 24, 2011 at 9:29 am Reply

    Nice write up this area where design is view as a business risk, especially here locally.
    Had already accounted a few of them down my path.
    Everytime, it’s always more or less end up with the same situation. Throughout the talk had been smooth and enjoyable until we start talking about design, the process, investment and risk in terms of tooling and production.
    It never fails to freak out prospective clients. Especially if they are a small firm.
    Can I say that, local business or most business does not see the big picture in how a product specifically design for their company is a advantages OR do they lack the drive to take the so call risk which they sees it.
    In the end it might just be a thin line between organisation which succeed with flying colors and those which survive daily.

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