A key conversation at the Bangalore Week held over a month ago, steered towards Quantifying the impact of Design. What could possibly be the of good design? Cracking this question could help businesses understand the need to invest in good design instead of perceiving it as an indulgence. Cracking this question felt like the ultimate Design Pitch.

Hi! I’m a data analyst turned designer. So, of course I found it incredibly fascinating to quantify a (fairly) qualitative discipline. What you’ll find below is the outcome of my habitual overthinking about this question.

Some of the answers at the Design Week focussed on direct metrics like Net promoter score, the impact on sales and so on. The issue with this approach, I suspect, is that these metrics are the combined result of several disciplines involved in building a product or a service. It would be unfair to attribute a good net promoter score solely to say, the visual branding of a product.

An engaging product is a result of the simultaneous effort of several disciplines

On the other hand, Neeraj Kakkar, co-founder of Paper Boat (a brand of traditional Indian beverages) described the indispensable role design had in several aspects of the product. Right from crafting the intangible brand identity of ‘Preserving innocence’ to the tangibles of final packaging, Design was embedded in almost every detail that drove Paperboat’s successful experience. Making it all the more challenging to quantify Design’s widespread impact.

Good Design v/s Bad Design

Contrary to traditional biases around the word, ‘Design’ isn’t merely visual. Perhaps we tend to think this way because the visual aspects are usually the most easily perceived outcomes of a design process (Hoardings, logos, icons, apparel, etc). Instead, design is as much about human-centricity and functionality as it is about the eventual visual aesthetics. Design, by this definition, is truly synonymous with problem-solving. It’s in every deliberate detail that drives the end user’s experience.

Let’s take the context of a digital B2C product. Good design would then be the outcome of meticulous detail keeping the end user in mind — beginning with defining and solving the right problems through user research, doing so in a user-friendly manner to delivering a highly delightful and often intangible experience.

Bad design on the other hand is often driven more by vague assumptions and neglect of the end-user’s needs and mental models. Bad design manifests itself through solving the wrong problems, not being user-intuitive and collectively resulting in a disengaging and disappointing experience.

While businesses see design as an indulgence, the end user perhaps subconsciously perceives it as a hygiene factor.

Why so? Because when the design’s bad, hell breaks loose — complaints on the app store, social media resentment, drop-offs out of frustration, dormant user behaviour, poor user engagement. All of which can be reasonably captured through quantitative data as well qualitative feedback.

Bad design is noisy, it’s hard to miss if you care to look.

Good design on the other hand offers no instant gratification but instead drives long-term user engagement. Good design is deliberate and often invisible. It’s unlikely that you’ll hear someone say ‘Fantastic User Experience’. (If you do, please give them a hug.)

News Flash:

There really is no short-term metric to quantify the impact of good design, while there’s plenty of alarming metrics to quantify bad design.

The question businesses need to then be asking shifts from ‘What can design do for me?’ to ‘What do I stand to lose in the absence of good design?’.

And businesses that are formulated on the hopes of user engagement can no longer afford to be complacent about their design details.

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