How to tell if you are a design snob

High quality bespoke design can generate return on investment. But custom design is not always the right solution. Sometimes design assets you buy-in are the most appropriate solution.

This post is sponsored by Evanto Elements.

I value good digital design. I trained in design and spent over half of my career working as a digital designer. Throughout all those years there have been those who understood the importance of design. But for a long time the majority didn’t see its value.

At the beginning of my career I worked for IBM. I was one of a handful of digital designers in the entire organisation. That did grow over the time I was there, but not anywhere near enough. IBM didn’t appreciate design.

Things are different now. IBM is attempting to employee 12000 design professionals and refocus their business. This is down to the success of design led companies like Apple. In fact according to the Design Management Institute, design-driven companies outperform S&P by 228% over ten years.

IBM is one of many companies who are coming to value the role of design in business success.
IBM is one of many companies who are coming to value the role of design in business success.

The world has changed and business leaders now understand the benefits of design. They can see it matters. And it matters a lot.

When good design matters

For many, design is what differentiates them from the competition. It is what gives them a competitive advantage and in some cases allows them to charge a premium.

If you sell a luxury product with a strong aesthetic, it makes sense that your site reflect that quality.

Design also matters if you have invested in your brand identity. If you put time and effort into shaping how others see you, then you will want to reflect that across all channels. That will include digital.

As a company becomes more and more successful it will need to start caring ever more about design.

When a professional cyclist performs at the highest level, a fraction of a second could win or lose the race. They invest in their equipment seeking that edge.

Just like a professional cyclist, high performing sites need to focus on any tiny edge that gives them an advantage. Design can provide that edge.
Just like a professional cyclist, high performing sites need to focus on any tiny edge that gives them an advantage. Design can provide that edge.

The same is true of high performing companies. A half a percent increase in conversion can translate into millions. A marginally higher customer satisfaction rating can make or break the company. Design can provide that edge.

But is bespoke, tailored design always appropriate. Would you suggest a Sunday afternoon cyclist bought professional bike?

When good enough, is good enough

This is where I see the snobbery coming in. When a professional cyclist looks at a bike you might buy in Halfords he sees only the weaknesses. How it is too heavy, with second rate gears and poor balance. But for our Sunday afternoon cyclist it is good enough. In fact it is better for their needs than the professional bike.

So it is with digital design. I hear a lot of designers moan about sites that provide design templates. Sites like Evanto Elements who are sponsoring this post. They moan that the designs are generic. That they are not customised to the specific needs of the client. That they are cookie cutter solutions.

I have little time for this kind of attitude. For a start a lot of these templates are damn good! Sure, they aren’t bespoke to the clients specific needs, but that doesn’t always matter.

Take for example businesses starting out. Or companies who don’t have a strong visual identity. All these kinds of clients need is a site that looks professional and is easy to use. That doesn’t need to be a bespoke design.

There is also a level of hypocrisy at play here. The same designers who dislike templates, buy illustrations or fonts from sites like Evanto. Why aren’t they designing custom fonts or drawing illustrations to the clients exact requirements?

Also these sites have an enormous catalogue of design assets created by great designers. Sure they aren’t bespoke. But with so much selection there is often something that is close to perfect.

Design needs to earn its keep

Let me be clear, I believe custom, bespoke design is often worth the investment. It can provide a competitive edge, increase revenue and build a strong brand identity. But design is not art. It has to earn its way. It has to generate a return. That return doesn’t always have to be financial. But it does need to provide value to the business paying for it.

Sometimes it can do that. Other times it won’t be able to and at such times a cheaper, faster solution might be the answer. That is where stock design assets have a part to play.

But a word of warning. This is about providing value to our clients, not us. This is not about us cutting our costs and palming off ‘good enough design’ when charging for bespoke. It is never acceptable to use purchased design assets without telling the client. Trust me, sooner or later that will come back to bite you.

  • Ben

    Great post, so many designers forget these not-so-little truths about design.

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