The Design Business Association’s CEO, Deborah Dawton talks about the impact of design on effectiveness business and strategies to implement the effectiveness philosophy.

In 2018’s “What Clients Think” report by UK-based agency Up to the Light, clients were asked what a new agency could talk about to grab their interest in 30 seconds. The top answer?

Evidence of effectiveness.

What is design effectiveness?

Design effectiveness is where you can evidence design’s tangible and measurable impact upon business success. Effectiveness case studies clearly articulate the argument that investing in design is an investment in business growth and shows design as a differentiator.

In today’s world, delivering aesthetically beautiful design is not enough. Effective design is what matters and clients are looking for the evidence of agency’s effectiveness before taking the plunge. In a saturated market, evidencing your design effectiveness is a way to stand out and prove your credentials.

“The agency’s ability to talk about its work within a business context showing measurable impact = the most likely way to get a client’s interest.”

– Up to the Light’s ‘What Clients Think Report 2018

How do you implement the concept in your business?

The first step is to adopt the design effectiveness philosophy in every project you do. Don’t look back on a good project and think “it’d be great to have some data on this to measure the step change”. Be proactive and initiate that conversation from the start, regardless of where it will go. The outcome will mean a bank of effectiveness-based case studies that will strengthen your client relationships, deliver new business and prove the design spend return on investment to clients. Create a template form so that the questions and answers are asked and logged every time an initial brief is put forward.

Some suggested focus areas include:

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • What will success look like?
  • How do you quantify that?
  • If that is your finish line, what is the starting point?
  • Do you have supporting data around that starting point?

By digging down as much as possible to integrate the brief and understand the underlying facts behind the need for your service, you will not only build confidence with the client and impart a message of trust, you will gain the clearest picture of the client’s requirements as you possibly can. Sounds simple, right? The key is to keep this on track as a barometer all the way through the project. That starting questionnaire needs to become the linchpin on determining the commercial success of the design.

What proves design as the driver?

At the start of the project, once the business objectives have been defined, you can explore ways to explain, evaluate and extrapolate other factors that may also influence the success of a project and plan in some space to allow the design to speak for itself – e.g. a postlaunch period before any advertising is begun.

Does proof of design effectiveness help grow an agency?

Yes! Just ask Pearlfisher, BrandOpus, WPA Pinfold, Thompson Brand Partners, The Clearing, Elmwood and more. As previous DBA Design Effectiveness Awards winners, they’ve found their new business growth increase with the marketing of their proof of effectiveness. You can have the chance to enter your work and prove your effectiveness from 10 September 2018.

Visit for more detail and to enter.