Design has more to offer than just profits

Competitiveness is a key issue for design. If the Design Council can convince the Government through its report, Designed to compete, that companies gain the edge from integrating design into the heart of their business then it will be doing very well (see News, page 5).

It’s also good for designers to see the figures backing up the argument: London Business School research shows that 1 per cent of turnover given to product development and design yields an extra 3-4 per cent in turnover and profit over five years. Facts speak volumes to clients.

Even better news would be stronger proof that the Government is heeding the council’s call for it to make itself – through the civil service – a true design champion, setting a great example to the commercial world.

The Design Council has already been invited to influence design management practices at Chris Smith’s department, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DW 3 April). Let us hope this new report enables it to extend that influence across the public sector through its planned seminar so we can drop that quaint phrase “design procurement” and put more of a partnership badge on things. If, as we’re told, the civil service spends some 40bn a year on design, design consultancies could do with a bigger slice of that cake.

But let’s also hope that the cash argument isn’t the only one that gets across. There is more to life – even in business – and design can do much to enhance people’s experience and a client’s reputation.

The best design groups aren’t purely motivated by cash – they’d have chosen another way of making a living if they had been. There is nothing wrong with being profitable, but it’s what you do with the profit that is interesting.

Take Priestman Goode with its new manufacturing venture Plant (see First Sight, page 10). The product design group will probably make a bob or two out of having the facility, but Paul Priestman is more passionate about the control it gives his design team over the end product. Indeed, Priestman Goode isn’t the only design group to have taken manufacturing – or close involvement in it – under its wing for exactly the same reason.

It is this passionate concern with getting things right, improving the lot of client and consumer into the bargain, that makes designers special. And the full effect of their input is often immeasurable. It’s about quality of experience.

The Design Council touches on this in its report. We hope the Government takes this sentiment on board rather than pushing only the financial case for using design well.

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