The Value of Design in Everyday Business

Everyone knows that design can add a heck of a lot of value to a business.  Apple, Kohler, and Jawbone are all examples of how superior design can define a brand and motivate consumers to buy a product.  The principles used by these companies can be applied to everyday business.

You’ve seen it before – a document that looks like it was thrown together 5 minutes before you received it.  The fonts change through out, images look placed without any rhyme or reason, and you might have even gasped a little bit when you opened it.  Unfortunately, this happens more often than not in business.  Either that, or you receive a document that looks like any other document you’ve ever received.  I know I get a few of these a day.  Nothing stands out, and the documents just get filed away just like any other.

The other day I received a document from a vendor that really stood out.  I opened it, and I actually said “Wow.”  It was a regular document (I think it was just a bid or something), but it looked like someone definitely spent some time on it.  The graphics were great but subtle; it was laid out in a simple, easy to read way; and I actually went back to it when I didn’t have to just to look at it again.  I ended up sharing it around the office because I thought it was cool.

It got me thinking that every day there are multiple opportunities to impress through design.  Basically any document sent to anyone is an opportunity to impress the recipient.  It could get passed around the office just because it looks nice (much like I did with the document I received.)  Spending the extra 5-10 minutes to make something look nice can lead to future opportunities (or at least keep people talking.)

I think 3 basic principles can be used to help enhance documents to try to impress:

  1. Keep It Simple – The document I received wasn’t overly wordy.  It was well-written but succinct.  I could easily gather the information I needed from it.  It also didn’t over-do it.  It wasn’t loaded with graphics or call out or anything.  It was a rather elegently laid-out.
  2. Use Graphics – Although this document didn’t have a lot of graphics, it did have some well-selected graphics.  They were very simple design elements that added value without taking away attention from the main message.  Although they weren’t the focus of the document, they definitely added value through making an impression.
  3. Fit With Brand – This document was very branded, meaning it definitely looked like it came from their company.  It fit with the experience they were trying to convey.  If I had to look at the document without knowing who it was from, I could definitely tell who made it.

Documents and other everyday business activities can be opportunities to impress through simple design principles.  All it takes it 5 to 10 minutes to seperate yourself from everyone else and possibily develop more opportunities for your company.