Are we selling the benefits of graphic design hard enough?


by John Fountain.


Here's something that I read this during the week and it impressed me so much that I thought I'd share it with you. Lord Smith, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport pointed out that - with 1% of the world's population Britain produces 16% of its music and is the world's second largest exporter of television programmes - in 2001 the net worth to the economy was £112 billion with 1.3 million people employed and this has since risen to £200 billion with 1.5 million employed in the last decade - that's 7% of the national GDP!

Those are some pretty impressive numbers. Then I started thinking about graphic design and I wondered if it could claim anything similar. Can graphic design be quantified? Among all factors that influence the consumer, can the specific impact of an eye-catching bit of design or some cleverly chosen words be extracted? And if so, what is it?

I had a look around the internet and there's not much proof out there. The truth is graphic design is difficult to measure. Let's say you started a new business and youran it for five years without any graphic design work. Then you hired a graphic designer to create all your brand identity and sales/marketing materials, hey now you can instantly see the uplift. People are visiting your website more often. More of your copy is being read. Shed loads more people are interested in your product. The tills are ringing XX% more this year than last. Thank you graphic design.

The trouble is this doesn't happen so those kind of stats aren't available. So how do we make our case? What messages are being sent out that remind businesses that graphic design is critical to their future success?

This from AIGA - The American Institute of Graphic Design: Design is an investment in innovative thinking, positioning, branding and communication that creates value for businesses in terms of competitive advantage, customer trust and loyalty, and market share. In a rapidly changing global and local business environment, design thinking helps business counter the complexity of conditions with creative solutions. In a global economy in which production gravitates toward the lowest cost producer, human-centered design provides the competitive differentiation needed to gain market share. Design is a critical strategic asset that is most effective when employed early in corporate plans, not as a decorative finality.

Rubbish isn't it. Mind you, compared with some of the text from DBA - The UK Design Business Association and AGDA Australian Graphic Design Association it's Chaucer at his best. If you want to see how it should be done look at the UK Design Council website and you'll see they are doing a brilliant job explaining the benefits of product design. They are literally driving their creative industry forwards with fact after fact that reminds companies that product design is a wise investment. Not so in graphic design. No urgency. No passion. Just a load of flannel. Wouldn't it be good if these bodies started doing a better job of selling our industry, and spend a little less time selling themselves.

John Fountain is a writer and blogger.


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