Clients don't understand design value

Stop selling design value.

What’s the value in design value? If you google design value you will get 1,780,000,000 results. Surely that means a lot of clients understand what it means? No. Because most hits are designers talking to designers. Designers talking design talk.

Clients don’t get design value because most designers don’t get it.

It’s all about language
Designers use design language but clients understand business language. That’s why they don’t understand design value.
In a recent LinkedIn post by David C Baker he said about clients:
They are DEFINING the engagement with activities (inputs) rather than achievements (outputs). And frankly, if you stop and ask them to dig deeper and think about what they are trying to accomplish, they look at you like you’ve just grown a third eye…and instinctively want to move on to the next “vendor” who will just do what they are told and quit rocking the boat.
Behind this comment is the fact clients don’t see designers as having the business expertise to help them. They identify the business problem, arrive at a solution and ask the designer to ‘colour it in’.
This issue is demonstrated in designers constantly talking to clients about design value. We are demonstrating we don’t understand what is of value to the client.
In reality the ‘value’ in design value is about return on investment. ROI is a business term clients understand. Talking to them about design costing $5,000 and returning $25,000 is a more effective way to explain design value.

It’s all about the language

We should not expect clients to understand design language but we should expect designers to understand business language. If nothing else it will help them better understand their business.

For many years we have used the business model canvas to understand a business, translate it to design and give business based design solutions. The business model canvas has a series of building blocks that allow us to dissect a business using business language and then convert it into design strategy. You can read about the business model canvas from the people who built it. It is a great tool to unpack a business in business terms.

So what’s the answer?

Our Lunchtime Learning session on February Feb 23 shows you how to use the business model canvas to build an understanding of business language and use it to show how design adds value.

Greg Branson

Want support getting a new approach to your business? Want to develop new business directions. Our Business of Design short course will help.

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Want more?

These articles talk more about language used in businesses:

1 Read articles like this on Porter’s Five Forces to better understand some business terms and concepts.
2 Talking revenue streams with clients. A HBR article that gives all the talking points
3 It’s important to talk money with clients, they expect it.

About Greg

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.
Greg has developed a series of processes and tools to help designers manage their business better along with a Businerss of Design Short Course that help designers rethink their business.

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