How to choose the best design service, part 1


How to choose the best design service, part 1


Great design is critical to delivering excellent marketing

In fact, it’s one of the most important investments you can make.

In one study from the Design Management Institute, companies meeting certain design standards outperformed the S&P 500 by 211%.

design value index, 2005-2015
‍The design value index from DMI

That’s millions of dollars in additional revenue which can be attributed to good design.

But many companies end up delivering poor design due to inefficient business processes. Often, it’s really difficult to anticipate the design needs of a growing company. Stakeholders get frustrated by this and start building ad hoc design processes. They hire their own designers and agencies, or simply do the design themselves. We call this problem “shadow design”.

Costs of Shadow Design

Based on our work with businesses and enterprises of all sizes, we've found that even a modest team of 15 marketers generates the need for approximately 350-400 hours of design work per month.

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That's just the marketing team at a medium-sized enterprise aiming for modest growth. Add in the design needs from other teams and departments—your marketing team isn't the only source of design demand in your company—and you can have enough design work to keep roughly a dozen designers employed full-time.

Here's the model we use to break this down into manageable pieces.

1. Low frequency, high budget

Mention design to any executive—and to any consumer, for that matter—and this is the type of design they'll immediately think of. Iconic product design or a high-impact logo that creates immediate brand recognition and leaves a lasting impression. The kind of thing that only needs a full-scale redesign once a decade, if that, but that can dominate public perception of a company and its value.

McDonald's golden arches. Apple's MacBooks and iMacs (especially when they first introduced the iMac in all of its "flavors"). Nike's collectible and highly coveted sneakers. The Delorean. High-impact, high-value design work with long lead times, more work, and many iterations, which in today's world includes website design and branding, product packaging, and other infrequent needs that might nonetheless become just as iconic as the examples above.

That thinking about design starts with this type of project isn't a problem. But many businesses stop thinking about design here, too, and that means they're overlooking the majority of their design needs.

2. Low frequency, low budget

Occasional analytics decks and reports, departmental memos that include a handy graphic, and other internal, low-visibility informational aides require some minimal design attention. Though these projects don't tend to be the source of a lot of stress for managers and executives, this can lead to a time crunch for designers: they're tasked with completing the charts and infographics for these infrequent projects, but often aren't given the time or the budget to do things properly.

Understand that even the most insignificant visual communication has an impact on how the information is received. If there's design work to do, it's worth doing well, and that means planning for even the smallest of projects.

3. High frequency/high budget

If your company runs a blog or other client-education materials, makes regular use of influencer marketing, or engages in any other substantial and ongoing brand development, you're making regular high-level use of your design team. Planning and budgeting for this type of work is fairly straightforward—you need to devote plenty of time and money on a consistent basis—but its impact on other design projects is an important consideration.

With at least some of your designers spending most of their time on your high-frequency, high-budget projects, you'll lose flexibility when it comes to lower-frequency projects. Adding flexibility back in when you need it is easy, as long as you plan ahead.

4. High frequency, low budget

You've got plenty of design work that needs to be done often, and with a high enough profile that you need to make sure it always looks its best, but that can only receive a small slice of your design budget. Things like investor presentations; keynotes and other large-scale in-person communication opportunities; case studies and white papers distributed to potential investors, clients, vendors, and partners; and materials, booths, and other deliverables for use at conventions and other events.

Then there are social media posts, web banners, PPC ads, landing page assets, emails—you reach out to your customers and audience in a dozen ways thanks to digital media, and all of it requires design work. Yet despite the high visibility of this type of visual communication, this type of design work is often the least supported within many organizations. The high frequency of social media and similar output can make these efforts seem commonplace and low-return to marketing managers, and they're loathe to extend any budget to creating consistent and high-quality design work in these areas.

These design deliverables shouldn't be a major budgetary line item compared to a lot of other design work. Yet these are among some of your core marketing assets, and you churn them out on a near-constant basis. They require consistency in quality and in branding if you want consistency in your company. Though they aren't high on the design priority, proper planning for these projects lets you and your design team avoid substantial design-related headaches.

These are the four categories of design we look at while evaluating client needs. In part two we’ll show how to map them to your design needs in a way that improves your business outcomes.

Or, prefer to read it all at once?

Download our free, comprehensive Design Landscape ebook for more on discovering the best way to get design for your company.

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