How serious is design as a profession?

In a recent report published by The Design Council – The Design Economy 2018 – it cites the design industry as employing 1.69 million people in the UK and contributing more than £85 billion to the UK economy.

Clearly, professional design is a very strong industry area, largely due to the growth in technological and digital businesses and it’s only to get bigger in the future. However, despite the evidence that professional design is a business to be respected, many companies decide it’s easier to do it themselves.

Why is design not valued properly?

Unfortunately, when businesses decide to cut the budgets, design is often the first to go, being seen as non-essential and something which could easily be carried out in-house and for much cheaper.

Businesses that don’t understand what design can do for them often just assume design is just about colours, pictures or fonts and anyone with a computer can do it. However, those businesses which think strategically understand the role of professional design within any marketing mix.

If businesses invest in good design it can make a huge difference to their marketing and brand as a whole. A design agency looks at what the business is trying to achieve strategically and how design can help the business get to that point. The team here at Frost Creative will never start the design process without first getting to understand the business strategy, no matter what the business size is.

Members of the Frost Creative team have worked in-house themselves in previous roles and have experienced first-hand how in-house design teams can become too pigeon-holed by company guidelines and lose their creative spark. It can become a case of designing the same thing over and over again and can get stale for the designers. We have many clients who also have in-house teams and we always recommend close collaboration between their in-house designers and ourselves to ensure everyone is pulling in the right direction and delivering what is needed for the business to succeed.

What happens when companies do invest in design?

A design agency will take a more holistic approach, looking at business goals and targets and thinking creatively, well outside of the company guidelines, bringing in different perspectives and ideas from other industry sectors. In fact, professional design has been proven to bring in business benefits, according to the recently published report from the Design Council. The report included the results of a survey that the council carried out. The survey asked a variety of businesses who had invested in design, why they did and what kind of results they had seen as a result of their investment.

It showed that two fifths of the firms surveyed said the use of design had directly led not only to a measurable increase in sales but also to an increase in competitiveness for the business. The businesses also reported a measurable improvement in brand recognition and loyalty as a result of using professional design skills.

What kind of businesses invest in design?

The report also revealed that in 2015, UK firms invested around £14.7 billion in design projects and that those who invested in design were also more likely to invest in research and development and other forward-thinking innovations. It showed that it’s not just creative businesses that are investing in design but those in the technology arena, aerospace industries and other hi-tech forward-thinking sectors – they were all investing heavily in design.

While some companies might have one or two talented in-house designers, using a professional, external design agency has a lot more advantages for the business than the in-house team and should be seen as an investment. A design agency is often more creative. An internal designer can get stuck in a rut, doing work that they know pleases the boss for an easy life. Using a design agency gives the business a unique outside viewpoint and insight into what may be a better outcome.

Using the skills of a talented designers, like those at Frost Creative, really can bring a new perspective to your marketing. It’s not about design for design sake. There is a reason behind everything an agency does. A design agency is an investment in the business and not just a need for a change of image.

But why not just use software and do it ourselves?  

Unfortunately, with the creation of graphic and photographic software which is easy and often free to download, many smaller companies in particular decide to tag on design of their marketing materials to another person’s job role, rather than investing fully in marketing.

This can seem like a more cost-effective option; however, it’s about balancing the time value as well. The time it would take an inexperienced person to create something which looked even remotely professional is time away from their day job. While it might seem cheaper, it would most certainly take an amateur far longer to produce a simple graphic design than it would a professional, making the use of in-house staff to carry out design, a false economy.

Why is a design agency different from an in-house team?

A professional design agency will work strategically with a business to ensure that any design concepts are created to match business goals and targets. There is much more to getting the design right than just choosing colours.

Agency work is ultimately more strategic than anything that could be carried out in-house, as well as more creative overall and you could argue with a far higher quality result. An in-house marketer might be able to drum up a logo but are they going to be able to create it in all the versions needed for high quality printing across a broad range of materials?

Design is one area where people mistakenly believe they can do it themselves for cheaper, whereas the reality of cheap design is its more time-consuming and could actually damage a business’ reputation making it look unprofessional. Strategic thinking followed by professional design skills should be an investment for any company that is serious about competing in today’s market place and a design agency will work on that basis. At the end of the day, if design was that straight forward our business wouldn’t exist.

If you need any help or advice on design for your business, please give us a call at Frost Creative today.