Awards designed to have impact

There's much more to corporate design than just looking good, Helen Jones writes

BUSINESS design is no longer just about beautifully packaged products looking good on supermarket shelves or the commissioning of a crisp new corporate identity. It now has to have a tangible impact on profits.

In a bid to justify the cost of using a design company, the design industry is holding its fifth annual Design Effectiveness Awards this week, which aim to prove that design is a sound commercial investment.

Laura Haines, chairman ofThe Design Business Association's design effectiveness group, says: "The award entries make it clear that the role of design is now recognised by major corporations and that it is a key part of the marketing mix. It is now being viewed as an investment rather than just a short-term cost."

Ms Haines and the industry are at pains to emphasise that the ceremony is not surrounded with the self-congratulatory smugness synonymous with so many awards evenings nor, it says, does it provide plaudits for beautiful but largely irrelevant and expensive design.

Its argument is based partly on the quality of the judging panel, which is made up of top-level executives from companies such as Coca-Cola and Midland Bank. The chairman of the judges is Nestle's assistant vice president, Lars Wallentin.

Not only are the entries subject to the scrutiny of hard-nosed business people, they also have to prove that the implementation of the design has a measurable impact on the bottom line. Hopeful entrants must submit details of increases in sales, profits or market share.

Ian Rowland-Hill, chief executive of the DBA, says: "Successful design is measured against two broad criteria - first the original goals set for the project and second whether those goals were significant in a larger context, like the survival of the business, the need to replace an outdated product or recapture market share."

The DBA admits that design is rarely the only factor influencing a project's commercial success - sales may rise through a combination of factors.

However, one design industry source and former winner says the criteria are essentially flawed: "Just because something is measurable, that doesn't necessarily make it good design, a deserving winner or mean it is more effective than the others." He argues that sometimes fairly small projects win because they are not backed by advertising or any other marketing support and therefore it is easy to say that design made all the difference and increased sales dramatically or achieved whatever objectives had been set for the project.

Another source agrees: "If it is a much bigger project, say a branded can of beans, no matter what the design is, it is harder to measure its effectiveness because increased sales could be due to TV advertising for the brand."

These may be extreme views, but Tuesday's results are eagerly awaited in the industry. Although a closely guarded secret, the overall Grand Prix winner is understood to be a project for the Royal Mail entered in the information design category. The work by identity specialists Siegel & Gale is claimed to have simplified the application form for the Royal Mail's redirection service, making customer service more effective, saving time and therefore money.

Among others considered a good bet as a category winner is Wickens Tutt Southgate's entry in the branded products, packaging design sector for the Gossard Ultra bra. According to the submitted evidence, this pack design helped rescue the Gossard brand when it lost its Wonderbra license - and potentially 40 per cent of its business - to rival Playtex.

But it is not just pack design and corporate communications that are competing for honours. In the industrial products category, one of the most interesting and worthwhile projects is that done by Random Product Design. It has transformed a cumbersome piece of military hardware - a thermal imaging camera - into a life-saving product that is light and cheap enough to be used by civilian firefighters.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us