Design for the Bottom Line

Unlike other business resources such as Advertising, Marketing and PR, the process and benefits of Design are often poorly communicated and broadly misunderstood.  It starts with the name, which is all encompassing and can potentially be seen as indulgent when associated with fashion design for example: superficial when associated with Interior Decoration or craft based, when associated with furniture design.

Let’s instead focus on ‘Commercial’ design, i.e. Industrial / Product design, Graphic / Digital design and Commercial Interior design (Offices, Restaurants and Shops).

Like Advertising, Marketing and PR, commercial design should be expected to deliver a direct return on investment.  For example, a well designed product will command a higher price and appeal to a broader market. Fisher & Paykel and Methven are great examples of design driven product manufacturers.  Well designed graphics, such as logos, websites, signs or packaging clearly communicate a brand’s values and can reinforce or reposition them.  Well designed offices provide greater efficiencies, staff retention and client engagement.  Well designed shops increase product sales and well designed hospitality venues attract more clients.

In this sense, Design is more tangible than Advertising, Marketing and PR. Companies that use design effectively sell more, develop sustainable businesses and reap a range of other benefits.  Incidentally NZ punches above its weight in this regard – good design and innovation is a contributor to its success.

If you are ready to consider Design as a catalyst to improve your business, here are some tips to bear in mind.

  1. Make an educated choice of your Design consultant
  2. Ask them for obligation free fee proposals, credentials and references but don’t expect free creative concepts
  3. Ensure that you have prepared a clear and detailed brief
  4. Confirm if you want lots of ideas to choose from or more than one Design Consultant to provide concepts. Both are possible.
  5. Give your Design Consultant some latitude to come up with something transformative
  6. Understand that Design projects are broken down into stages with clear deliverables and an associated fee for each
  7. Don’t be afraid to talk about time and money (or budgets and timelines)
  8. Establish who owns copyright at the outset
  9. If it’s not working out, don’t prolong the agony
  10. If it is working out, celebrate the benefits you have achieved


For more detail on these 10 tips go to and for NZ case studies go to



James Harper is the Principal of BrookingHarper, a Melbourne based Retail Design Company, whose clients include Apple, Omega and Mercedes.  He is a past National President of the Design Institute of Australia and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. James is a director of 30 Seconds Limited, a New Zealand based specialist cleaning product manufacturer which competes successfully in several international markets.