Sunday, September 18, 2011

Misunderstanding the Value of Design

Photo credit: penywise from

Much can be said about communicating the value of graphic design to clients and bosses who may not understand it's value. But one thing is clear: design is more important than most people realize. And, unfortunately, even some designers don't understand it's value.

Graphic design is often thought of as the last step in product development or advertising. It is viewed as the vehicle to get some sort of attention for a message, or the thing you do to make something "pretty."

Let's dispel some myths first.

I've heard some designers refer to their craft as not being "brain surgery" or something. It isn't as important as financial accountability in business, some have said. I've even heard some designers refer to it as something that is "fun" to do and dabble with. This view of design is often shortsighted because value is not always determined by its immediate results as compared to other fields.

For example, when surgery is needed it holds immediate value to those who need it, not to those in good health. But that doesn't mean it will not be of any value to the person who doesn't need surgery. In other words, the immediate need doesn't determine its value in the marketplace. Neither does the immediate needs of graphic design.

It's value is intrinsic according to its proper use. To take the example further, a surgeon's skill is valuable to the public interest because we all have health concerns — for ourselves and those we love. But that doesn't mean a surgeon is valuable in every situation, such as when you need a car mechanic. It's great to have a friend who is a notable surgeon, but you need to get your car running. Just because you need a mechanic more than a surgeon doesn't mean a surgeon's skill is a valueless commodity. So it is with graphic design.

It's true that a business may not go belly-up if it has a lousy logo. And it's true that poorly designed collateral will not put a business out of business. And it's true that you don't need a professional designer for everything that needs some sort of design work. But that doesn't diminish the power and worth of good design. Because design has the power to position a business in the marketplace, influence potential customers to act, and make financial decisions more strategic.

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