From Branding to Sales: How Design Influences Business Success
Find out how to measure the impact of design on branding, marketing & websites, with these famous examples.
Table of Contents
As a graphic design service, we often talk about how critical good design is for the success of any business. Well, today we’re looking at some of the main reasons why that is.
We’ve all experienced the power of design as consumers, whether it’s making a purchase decision based on packaging design, or leaving a website that’s poorly designed.
However, if you’re a business owner looking to grow your business with the power of graphic design, you’ll need a little more than a gut feeling and a few personal experiences before you decide to invest in graphic design. We’re looking at some of the main ways how graphic design influences business’ success, with a few case studies that illustrate the connection between good design and commercial success.
Where is graphic design used?
A one-word answer to this question would be: everywhere. By definition, graphic design is the creation of visual assets that communicate a certain message to a certain target audience.
Sometimes, graphic design also serves a utilitarian purpose as is the case with product packaging or with SaaS design (software as a service). However, the communication aspect is always present: whether design communicates your business vision and values, or the particular features of products and services. For example, we’d often see the color green with natural or organic products; while graphic design for luxury brands involves a lot of black and cold to communicate a sense of exclusivity.
So, here are just a few ways in which any business might need graphic design:
- Logo and branding
- Advertising materials: print materials like brochures and flyers, but also social media visuals
- Packaging design
- Web design
- UI/UX design
- Product design
And the list goes on. Any and every visual asset created for commercial purposes requires professional design. From bits of interior design like signage or prints used for wallpapers to the design of your regular emails, graphic design is an integral part of any business.
And here are just some of the key ways in which design impacts business success.
How does good branding affect business success?
We’ve all heard the expression that a logo is the face of a business, but why do you need a logo, really? But actually, this simple visual element is the foundation on which you create a strong brand. Your logo should dictate your entire visual identity: how your business looks to potential customers, what kind of messages it conveys and what feelings it inspires.
Building a brand relies heavily on graphic design theory. For monochromatic (black and white logos) the key elements that professional designers take into account are balance, rhythm, typography, scale, etc. For logos with colors, designers need to take all of that into account and bring in their knowledge of color theory and color psychology.
Color theory is concerned with how colors are mixed and combined; whether they are complimentary, contrasting, warm, cold, primary, secondary, etc.
Color psychology is a field of study of how colors are perceived emotionally. For example, it’s been suggested that the combination of red and yellow makes us hungry, and blue usually has a calming effect.
Graphic designers combine different design elements into a unique logo and brand image that communicates the company’s vision and values. Think of Coca Cola. This timeless logo was actually created by Dr. John Pemberton’s (the creator of Coke) bookkeeper Frank Mason Robinson. Robinson thought “the Cs would look good on a logo”. Simple enough, right? Well, the power of this idea is that it works equally well today, as it did 150 years ago. Coca Cola’s name has a buzz to it, just like the sugary drink. And of course, the use of the vibrant red color is by no means a random choice. This color suggests youth and energy, the vital components of the Coca Cola brand
Old Mailchimp website: Copygrad
In other words, just as interior design and the overall experience of a physical store is important for brick and mortar business great website design is what will help you acquire new, but also keep customers for an extended period. And this isn’t just a matter of sales either. A well designed website has a much wider impact on your business: a website that is well designed will also help you build brand recognition, as more people visit your site and increase its ranking and domain ranking.
From their logo to marketing on social media like Instagram, their branding is impeccable. They present traveling as an opportunity to see how other people live, and this powerful message is what attracts millions of loyal customers to its brand.
Of course, branding is much more than logo design. Consistent branding across the board allows you to create brand awareness, and gradually turn customers into brand advocates. No matter how much people like your product, people are unlikely to spread the word about it.
From business cards, to visuals used on social media platforms, a unified look and feel of your brand allows people to go beyond your products and service, and identify with all the things your company and brand represent.
How about an example?
Airbnb has revolutionized the hospitality industry by offering an alternative way to find accommodation. The idea itself is pretty solid. But the reason why they managed to turn a $100 million venture into a $31 billion business over the course of 6 years is much more complex.
Like many modern brands, Airbnb tapped into messaging that people respond well to: humanity. Instead of nameless staff at overpriced hotels, they allowed people to open their homes to travelers, under the premise that people staying there will treat it as their own home. Among other things, this is also evident in their slogan “Belong anywhere” (formerly, “Travel like a human” which still carries the same sentiment).
How does website design boost commercial performance
While it’s easy to see how design of physical products is closely linked to commercial success (people usually prefer to buy something that looks good), the importance of design is even more evident in the online space.
If someone buys a food item because of attractive packaging, but hates the taste afterwards, it’s not likely they will turn into loyal customers. However, if someone has a negative website experience, not only are they unlikely to make a purchase, they’re also probably not going to return to the website again.
Here are just a few eye-opening web design statistics that you should know about:
- 85% of B2B, and 79% of B2C users say that the experience of a brand is just as important as what it sells (Salesforce)
- 75% of users will judge a company’s credibility based on the website (Stanford)
- 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the design is unattractive (Adobe)
- 88% of people are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience (Econsultancy)
A design success story to learn from in this area comes for a SaaS giant: Mailchimp. Mailchmip went through a rebranding process back in 2018, and it seems the brand managed to create a truly iconic look. While the previous look(s) of the brand were always meant to make it seem fun and approachable, as the company grew and diversified their offer, it began to feel a little disjointed.
For that reason, Mailchimp decided to introduce a simpler, modern look: they simplified their logo and switched the many pastel colors of the previous design for a two-color palette (Cavendish Yellow and Peppercorn). And although their previous website was already quite good, both in terms of design and responsiveness, they still managed to make it even better.
While the old website was primarily focused on its core service (email automation tool), the new website helps the company reach more customers with their extended, custom offers.
How does design impact sales?
The easiest way to see how graphic design influences business success is to take a look at how it impacts the commercial side of things.
In other words, does good design drive sales?
We’ve already mentioned a few statistics related to packaging and website design. But actually, a design-oriented approach is proven to make businesses more successful.
The most recent and comprehensive study in this area is the McKinsey design research from 2018. McKinsey tracked the design practices of 300 companies over a period of 5 years, and created the McKinsey design index (MDI), which links the importance of design and financial performance.
The report showed that companies with a high MDI had almost double the revenue compared to the industry benchmark.
Measuring the impact of design
While there is no doubt that design is important, measuring its impact can be quite challenging. First of all, design stands on its own, rather it’s intertwined with every other aspect of a business (products, services, business model, employees, marketing, etc.).
Here are a few ideas that can help you measure the performance of your design team.
Set up KPIs
KPIs (key performance indicators) are an essential part of creating any kind of marketing and business strategy. These could be the number of sales you make, social media post engagements, or a better website ranking.
Collecting data on KPIs should be fairly straightforward, however, bear in mind that these are just the quantitative metrics.
Conduct customer surveys
If we take into account that its’ approximately 5 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one, it’s clear just how important nurturing customer relationships is for small businesses.
One way to make sure that customers are really responding to your designs is to conduct interviews or surveys asking them for their input. Do they like the redesign of your website? Are they able to immediately recognize your product from a bunch of similar ones?
These metrics are called qualitative, and they offer a deeper insight into what is or isn’t working in your design strategy.
Compare the two sets of metrics
The fallacy of surveys is that people’s input often doesn’t match their actual behavior. There are tons of examples where companies tried to introduce new products or services based on customer feedback, only to see these fail on the market. The explanation is simple. What people think they want, and what they actually need can be quite different.
That’s why it’s necessary to use both sets of metrics, quantitative and qualitative, to see where they overlap and where they don’t. The overlaps are the best indicators of your design’s performance.
For example, if you’ve changed the color or placement of a sign up button on the new website and saw a decrease in sign-ups afterwards; and your customer survey shows that many people say they couldn’t find the sign up form or didn’t have enough information about it, then it’s clear that you’re dealing with a design problem.
Understanding the importance of design for any business, means understanding things like branding, marketing and product development work.
Simply put, graphic design is a necessary part of your business. The same way you will try to create a product or service that people want to pay for, design helps you create a brand that people trust and love.
Design will help you connect with the right target audience, and convert loyal customers into brand ambassadors. It can help you boost sales and a design-focused approach will mean that you’re quicker to respond to your customers’ needs.
Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.