What’s design really worth?

Recently I read an article in Forbes online that included a classic quotation about design from Thomas J. Watson Jr., CEO of IBM. “Good design,” he told a university group in 1973, “is good business.”

And that got me thinking about the real value of design.

The more that I reflected on design in general, and thought about the design assignments our studio has handled, the more I felt that good design isn’t just good business. It’s an investment.

In today’s business world, there are countless examples of companies and products – in both the B2B and B2C spheres – that are associated with high quality design. Good design has become an integral part of their businesses – and they are considered among the world’s most valuable brands.

Apple may be the most often cited company for its sophisticated, minimalist, intuitive designs (on packaging, products, publicity and more).

But there are many others whose corporate identities are striking and memorable (Coca-Cola, IBM, FedEx and Nike, to name a few) and whose approach to design is integrated and comprehensive.

Consider these examples – just a few of my personal favourites – where design is closely linked with business success:

  • Prada. The Prada philosophy is to maintain extremely high quality and understated, forward-thinking design.


  • FedEx. The strong identity of this global success story delivers more than just brand recognition. The quality of the corporate identity actually helps to underscore the quality of the company’s services, including on-time deliveries and overall dependability.


  • Bianchi bicycles. The company is believed to be the world’s oldest cycle maker, and it’s known throughout the cycling world as a premium brand – often cited for its technological development and constant research. Bianchi takes advantage of new concepts to deliver high performance to its customers, both professional and amateur.


  • Weave, a part of Bellamy Software. This is a Stokely Design Associates client, and we’re especially proud that the brand we created for the software company has proven instrumental in Weave’s success, including its eventual merger with Bellamy.

04-b-p1I think that these few examples – and there are many more in the world of business – are living proof that good design really is a good investment.

What’s your take? This is your opportunity to share your thoughts on design. How important is it to you and your organization? What are some of your own favourites?

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