an online conversation
about design management

32 ways to explain design value

More than 20 years ago we began doing design audits. We kicked off with a major project for an Australia wide hardware chain. The brief from the CEO was that we had to present something that was not too ‘arty farty’ because the store owners and the management were more about business than ‘arty farty stuff’.

About the same time as this I was in a CEO roundtable group. There were 12 members in the group ranging from a rubbish collecting business to a software development company. In this group we had to present our business plan, marketing plan and strategy to the group for critique.

Each monthly meeting we had a guest management consultant who showed different management tools. It was in one of these that I discovered the balanced scorecard. The balanced scorecard is a strategic planning and management system that is used extensively in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organisations worldwide to align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organisation, improve internal and external communications, and monitor organisation performance against strategic goals.

This is a tool that balances the People, Processes, Customers and Finances of a business. The founders of the tool, Kaplan and Norton, set out a range of questions that you asked in order to fill out your scorecard. I found it a very useful tool to manage the growth of our studio.

The design balanced scorecard

When the CEO of the hardware chain warned me about the presentation of our design audit I decided to explore how I could present a design balanced scorecard as a design audit.

That began a long journey. We started by convincing the group of hardware owners that design could play a vital part in making their stores stand out. This ranged from the exterior of the stores through to the way that customers were helped in the stores. The measure of success; on the launch weekend they tripled their previous best weekend trading.

Fast forward to now and I have refined the design balanced scorecard into a Return on Design Investment (RODI) tool.

Over the years I have discussed this approach with many of my design colleagues. Some see it as robbing the heart and soul of design, others have seen it as having great potential to prove design’s value and extend the work they do for a client.

The RODI tool

This tool identifies in a project (such as a new branding or rebranding) the 32 touchpoints that you can prove design’s value. These touchpoints are spread across the four areas; People (internal and stakeholder/suppliers), Customers, Processes and Finances. Each touchpoint can be defined and has a kpi to measure the effectiveness of the design. They also interrelate and support one another.

I have used the tool to show clients all of the areas that could be improved by design and the measurement that could be used to prove effectiveness. I have also used it to identify where we can offer added services to clients; extending a rebrand into a work culture change project.

There are many online resources that will help to build a design balanced scorecard. It took me many years of research and testing to get it right but in the end it has well and truly proven its worth.



Return on design investment