Good design isgood business?


By Phil McDonald

Considering the current climate we all find ourselves in, there has never been a better time to evaluate how well your brand is performing. The term 'good design is good business' is as relevant now as it ever was as businesses jockey for position to gain consumer attention — Design will play an important role in helping businesses gain the much-needed attention in an uncertain marketplace. Thomas J. Watson Jr., then IBM president, delivered a speech at the University of Pennsylvania in 1973 and one of his most memorable quotes from this speech reads — 'Good design is good business'. We look into the basis of good design, how good design looks and feels like and how it translates to good business.

Designing Credibility.

A recent study by Adobe (with data being provided by the Design Management Institute), suggests that companies with strong design sensibilities have outperformed companies with perceived weak design by 219% on the S&P Index over the duration of 10 years. Whereas Medium suggests (with data provided from Ironpaper) that 48% of people cited a website’s design as the number one factor in deciding the credibility of a business — The assumption here is that if your website gives an impression that your business is outdated, customers may presume that your content is also outdated. A further 59% of global consumers have cited that they would rather engage with, and likely to trust, content that is 'beautifully' designed as apposed to it being 'simply' designed (Medium/Adobe). Using the three data sets above, we could reasonably presume and therefore subscribe to the perception that we choose products and services based on aesthetics, which suggests that not only is good design directly tied to success — but is also tied together by trust.

The before and after image above is from a recent project we completed for Christian Guild. The left visual was their old marketing style and the right-hand image is, of course, our updated version. Christian Guild asked us to redefine their marketing materials to help them attract a more diverse pool of potential customers. We put in place a strong contemporary visual approach relying on strong aesthetics and direct messaging to build engagement and trust of new potential customers as well as retain their credibility with their existing market. Why not check out our full project for Christian Guild here.

Build A Strong Foundation.

Good design often has a strong foundation on which to build and most successful businesses start off with strong brand representation. The power of a finely crafted visual identity should never be undervalued in the chain of priority — a logo is the first visual in a line of touchpoints that customers will take notice of. According to a recent study by the New York design firm Siegel+Gale, memorable logos are 13% more likely to gain attention and 71.6% more likely to gain a positive response from the general public. In a world where everyone and everything is competing for your attention, this makes quite a difference.

A Customer will make up their mind in a matter of seconds if they trust or wish to buy a product or service, first impressions are critical and design plays an important role in the deciding factor. Action Card notes that it takes only 10 seconds to form an impression of a brand's logo, where Paul Moore's white-paper article suggests that "It takes 5-7 brand impressions before someone will remember your brand".

Brand Consistency.

A well-designed brand and associated consistency is a key component of brand cohesion. When a brand is inconsistent, it is perceived as disorganised and may suffer from a lack of consumer trust. Your business should give the customer the opportunity to experience your brand in the most consistent way possible. A consistent brand has many benefits, here are a few notable pointers: 1. 77% of marketing leaders say a strong brand is critical to their growth plans — Content Marketing Institute2. Consistent branding across all channels increases revenue by 23% — Forbes3. 60% of millennial consumers expect a consistent brand across all channels — Bulldog Reporter

Design Principles.

Dieter Rams demonstrates his idea of good design through 10 well-balanced principles and during December 1976, he gave a speech regarding his design work at Vitsoe whilst in New York where he states that "well thought out design is decisive to the quality of the product" and that "a poorly designed product is not only uglier than a well-designed product, but it is of less value and use". Rams' principles help to add contextualisation to his standpoint that the better a product or service is designed, the more useful and profitable for business it'll be. What we can draw from Rams' statement is similar to the aforementioned data sets above, although Rams' principles are rooted in balance and poise of multiple design-led factors and years of design experience compared to collected data and audience/consumer citations.

Website: Form & Function.

Remembering the old adage of form and function, good design is not only about aesthetics but the need to be effective and perform a specific function. If we look at a well-designed website, it should not only look good but should convert visitors into customers. Short attention spans coupled with underwhelming design generally lead to higher website bounce rates and research according to Microsoft notes that the average human attention span has declined by 4% to 8 seconds. So, that is a pretty small window to persuade a prospective customer. With good design, online services, products and websites have user experience at the heart of their process and typically you'll find that bounce rates are lower. A poorly designed website or online service is likely to dissuade a customer to look around as they may not be able to find what they are looking for or are frustrated by middle-man steps and processes. Good UX uses minimal key information and subtle interactivity giving the customer the minimum required whilst still expressing your brand. Why not read our recent blog post on why we advocate WordPress (here) as a platform where we outline its form, function and flexibility for both clients and developers.


In every industry, each and every business faces a healthy amount of competition. Good design can be the difference in driving more conversions compared to a competitor. Design Fundamentals points out that customers are biased toward beauty — "we perceive beautiful things as being better, regardless of whether they actually are better. All else being equal, we prefer beautiful things, and we believe beautiful things function better". Competition makes a business focus on progression and differentiation to stand out in the marketplace. Without competition, there is a risk that companies will lose focus on improving specific aspects that are important to consumers or customers — There would be no innovation or reason to protect their market share, as a captive audience would have no viable alternative. In the long run, competition keeps a business on its toes and that can only be a good thing for business and customers alike.

Good Design, Good Return.

Thomas J. Watson Jr.'s take and implementation of/on good design still rings true today. During his time as IBM President, he enlisted a team of designers and architects such as Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Paul Rand, Isamu Noguchi to establish IBM as a design-thinking company. IBM transformed its image from a company that sold hard-drives and invented barcodes to become “the paradigm of the modern corporation,” according to design historian Steven Heller — and good design was at the forefront of this shift in perception. My takeaway observations are that good design is good business, even more so in today's world. It is evident that good design has the ability to increase a companies value whilst increasing sales and conversions. From building credibility and strong foundations trough to brand consistency, principles, form and function — Good design can help make businesses more profitable, desirable and attractive.

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Office Lady image and Dieter Rams image courtesy of Unsplash.


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