No time for designClient “We don’t have time for design”

Global research shows 86% of clients feel they don’t have enough time for design in their projects. We’ve taken a look at how this applies here. The problem is there’s very little current local formal research. The last major research piece was done in 2019. When analysed along with global and earlier local reports you can track trends and apply them to the present.

We think that more than half of all design-using businesses say they would like to make more use of design, but cost prevents them. They also feel they’ve limited resources or time to make more use. This is possibly linked to their view that designers failed to understand the business; costing more time and money.

We think these are just some of the reasons clients don’t use design.

Barriers for businesses wanting to use design vary depending on the business, industry and design discipline.

With communication design we think the barriers are:

Cost Concerns:
Many clients baulk at the upfront costs for engaging professional designers or design agencies.
This is linked to the perceived value and the uncertainty about the return on investment (ROI). They can’t see, or haven’t been shown, the tangible and intangible benefits of design.

Lack of understanding and awareness of design:
Australian businesses have a limited understanding of what design entails and its potential impact on business outcomes.
They can’t be blamed for this. As an industry we’ve failed to provide training or exposure to show the power of design thinking and its outcomes. Business owners have been told design thinking can improve their bottom line. Then they are shown the consulting firm approach which lacks any visualisation. Understandably it doesn’t deliver the results so they think design is ineffectual.

There is an absence of advocates or leaders who can champion design within a client business. We see this particularly when clients seek a free pitch. They lack the skill to confidently assess an agencies’ abilities and then brief for an outcome. Our Design Maturity research showed design leadership gave a much higher use of design and better results.

Time constraints:
Most business owners are time poor and there’s a pressure to deliver quick results which acts against the longer-term benefits of design. The 2024 What Clients Think survey reported 86% of clients consider themselves to be working in a more pressurised environment than 5 years ago.

This also means there’s limited time for teams to engage in a thorough design process. The rushed process, a result of low time and budget allocation, diminishes results leading to the assumption design is not worth the time and money.

Integration challenges:
Siloed thinking leads to poor collaboration between activities like marketing, production and sales. Our Design Maturity research shows the benefits of collaboration across activities and how the lack of collaboration leads to misalignment between design goals and overall business objectives. This leaves clients thinking design can’t contribute to their business.

Measurement difficulties:
Business owners struggle to quantifying the impact of design on business metrics.
There is a perception that design has subjective outcomes and can be hard to quantify. All design can be measured. As an industry we need case studies that show how measurement has proven the value of design.

Misalignment with business goals:
While designers may develop creative strategies they rarely align with broader business strategies.
 This causes a misunderstanding of the role of design and leads to clients judging design as an aesthetic rather a strategic tool.


Addressing these barriers involves
·     educating clients and customers about the impact of design
·     showing clients how to integrate real design thinking into core business strategy
·     proving the impact of investing in design, and
·     helping clients develop a culture that supports and values design-led innovation.

All very possible. Want to know how? Contact Greg for a discussion that will help you get more design into your client’s businesses.

Greg Branson

Contact me if you would like to learn more about selling design impact.

Design Business Council : business advice for creatives.
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Design Business Review is Australia’s only online design management magazine. It’s professional development information written specifically for Australian designers by Australian designers. Best of all, it’s free.

Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.

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