woman walking
Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Walking the talk of business

Businesses that use design well, outperform those that don’t. The US Design Management Institute’s annual Design Value Index has proved it since 2005 and the UK Design Council documents how and why in their Design Index.

But different strokes for different folks – not every client relates to research or statistics.

Here’s another way of explaining why design is an investment rather than a cost…


Step 1

The first step in walking the talk is the ability to identify designs contribution to the current and future performance of a business. To do that, you need to know where to look to find the value of a business.

Generally, businesses have three areas of financial value:

  1. level of profitability
  2. expected growth rate
  3. its perceived riskiness.

chart showing financial value of a business

Productivity is simply the operations of a business: how well it is managed.
Expected rate of growth is an indicator of future profits: how much and how soon.
Perceived riskiness is market share and the potential of disruption.

Design practitioners have a role in all these areas.

Another way to identify business value is to analyse the internal and external activities.

Efficiency and engagement.

Business value is based on how a company is managed (efficiency) and current and future sales (engagement).

Design adds value to both areas: internally as a strategic discipline and externally as a creator of assets.

chart showing business valuation

This is where designers can really make an impact … it’s what we do well.


  • package goods and services to strategically engage a targeted market, which drive sales, maintains demand and helps sustain optimum price points
  • use human-centred design to identify ways to improve and streamline business/management systems and processes.


  • use customer journey mapping and empathy mapping to ensure the next generation of products answer (and exceed) customer needs/expectations
  • expand the emotional relationship with customers, employees and suppliers, aiming for repeat business and sustainable connections.

Take home point

Our job is to make client’s life easier. The more a design practitioner understands business, the less a client needs to complicate the brief.

Added to that, understanding where the value of a business resides makes it easier to explain why design is not an expense but an investment that can add value directly bottom line: increased sales leading to increased profit.


Got a question? Want to share your point of view? Please feel free to email me.


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Carol Mackay

Carol’s design expertise is in making the complex simple. Her skill is in packaging complicated content into bite-sized chunks of information to be easily understood and digested. 2018 is a big year for Carol. Thirty-three years after founding Mackay Branson design, she is moving from client-focused projects to use her skills with the Design Business Council, and The Design Business School.

Currently Carol is co-writing a new program for the The Design Business School. The Design Studio Management Program is aimed at designers, design graduates and existing design studio managers to help them develop skills to fast track their career path. It is due for release late February 2018. Contact Carol for more information.