Why is distinctive design important for SME success?

Great design equates to good business. It is a bottom-line investment, a decisive advantage that can propel you ahead of your competition. Can you afford to deny yourself the benefits?

Design, when built around your business needs, amplifies your values and aspirations, communicating positively with all those who can affect you. Attractive design sells. It formulates first impressions, setting the entire tone. The way you present your company has a massive impact. In any case, you want to feel proud of your business, don’t you?

Applying this to websites, a messy and disorganised site would suggest the same about you. Designing a creatively clean look will tell your audience about your company’s professionalism and relevance. Research shows that users who fail to alight on what they are looking for within 30 seconds will click away. Good design, therefore, is a critical promotional tool. If you expect people to take you seriously then you must do the same.

Most small and medium enterprises operate in acutely competitive environments. That makes it is all the more important to be seen clearly and understood widely. Solid and recognisable brands represent a short-cut to decision making in the minds of potential customers. They will choose you ahead of the rest if they know what you stand for.

Design rewards are not the exclusive domain of the business big boys: far from it. SMEs can and must share in the bounty.

Strong and consistent

The quality of the design applied to your visual presence tells a great deal about your business. That’s not just the logo; the advertising; the exhibition stand; the brochures; the website. It pervades through vehicle liveries, signage, uniforms, packaging and every slip and sliver of stationery. A strong and consistent corporate identity will build and maintain your business reputation. It can also allow you to command a price premium.

Further benefits relate to market protection in turbulent or recessionary trading times. Distinctive identities are more likely to survive in crises, with people opting for what they see as safe, reliable choices whenever money is scarce.

Durability is a prime indication of applied design that is working. Probably, there is no better example than the Coca-Cola logo. It was formulated 130 years ago and yet remains among the most powerful symbols around the world. In the long run, successful, leave-alone design with longevity saves you time and makes you money. Invest from the start and you will be rewarded.

But you must invest. Creative design is an enablement just as much as it is an outlay. Nothing is inexpensive if it doesn’t work: and effective design does not necessarily cost any more than the second-rate alternatives, which always look cheap. The alternative of trying to do it in-house might prove very costly indeed.

Seeking the best

Always seek the best that you can afford. See what is being produced by whom and assess the relevance to your own business needs.

When selecting a design partner you need to look beyond any hourly or daily rates that you might have been quoted. They are largely meaningless. For a start, how much will they produce and to what standard in any given hour or day? And what will it be worth to you in terms of successful outcome? That’s what matters.

You will be served best by narrowing down your designer search, then discussing the project in detail (the brief), agreeing actions and timescales, sharing objectives, formulating a cost basis, then working together with firm targets in mind.

Stay involved, without being a nuisance, contributing your own constructive thoughts – after all, it’s your business. But if you are confident that you have made the right choice of design support you can leave a great deal to the professionals. They will take your ideas and make them work, responding with concepts of their own, quite probably helping you to see your business in an entirely new light.

Design is not just about appearances. It equates to sound economical sense. It grabs attention, engenders recall and creates goodwill. It can increase sales and revenue, improve your positioning against competitors, develop customer loyalty, boost morale and provide a platform for long-term growth.

Superior design makes a consequential difference.

MD of Derbyshire-based Matchstick Design Laura Faulkner is an accomplihsed graphic designer. She’s got the creative talent to design for the world of F1 and motor-racing, top universities and global businesses yet is adaptible enough to successfully apply them to the world of SMEs and sole traders.