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'Design is the act of delineating by drawing the outline of; the formation of an idea; a plan; a proposal; to mean; to intend. It has a purpose, an aim and usually involves a project' Ph concise dictionary of English.

Indeed, the list of people involved in design one way or another is extensive. Their profession may be architecture, interior design, product design, furniture design, fashion, display design, engineering, graphic design or web design.

Although design is a creative and problem solving activity, its purpose today is not merely creative and functional but also strategic. Design has become an integral part of our lives and a powerful commercial tool. The points below highlight the potential of design from a commercial point of view. Some designers may not recognise what they do in these. Bear in mind however that even when designers do not personally deal with customers, their work is likely to have a commercial impact.

The Power of Design

Design is used as a tool to support the strategic objectives of a business.

Design is used as a route to the emotions to help businesses meet the functional needs and aspirations of customers. The appropriate manipulation of the relationship between function and emotion adds value to a business and increases its performance by designing in greater usability, greater aesthetics and greater customer experience.

Customer-centred design helps generate positive responses and meet, even exceed, the needs of a specific target market by designing-in features that bring real benefits to customers. The relationship between business and customers is enhanced. This mean not only attracting people but also retaining their custom.

Design can also be used to improve staff morale and efficiency, in turn delivering enhanced customer service.

Design plays a key role in customer's perception of quality and value. It can be used to reinforce or even alter the perception of a business.

Design plays a key role in differentiation from competitors. It can be used to facilitate opening new markets and cementing existing ones.

Finally, design can be used to turn a vision into a reality!

Assessing design

Below are 7 points to remember in order to assess the usefulness and potential success of a design. It can be adapted to specific design professions, even projects and used as a checklist.

1. Does your idea(s) genuinely offers customers a compelling proposition?

2. What leap in utility or benefit does it offer?

3. What customer experience characteristics does the idea(s) offer which might create enthusiasm and appeal?

4. Is there a compelling reason for customers to buy/use the new environment/product/service?

5. Is the pricing appropriate?

6. Can you deliver the offer profitably?

7. What are the factors which might mean that people don't accept a proposition?

Although the effectiveness of design can be intangible and difficult to measure, its impact and driving force is certainly noticeable, people understand design better and have become more demanding. It is therefore crucial for businesses to use design to their advantage and involve designers from an early stage. It is also important for designers to understand who they are designing for, from a commercial, functional and emotional point of view.

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