Managing Design

Essay by Xenia Viladas

The calculation of the return on investment (ROI) of design has been a subject of concern among design management professionals for years. The reason for this comes from what has been known as the “design paradox”, that is, the contradiction between the stated benefits that design brings to businesses and the reluctance to invest in it accordingly. There was a belief that if design could provide evidences of such benefits in financial terms, the paradox would dissolve and there would be a much more positive attitude towards design in business circles.

Several paths of research have been undertaken: from those in the past, such as those of the OPEN University to the latest works of Hertestein and Platt, about design as a lever for value creation in the production function, or the observation of the evolution of stock market indexes of design intensive companies, carried out by the UK Design Council, it seemed that the credibility of design relied on the possibility of providing some sort of mathematic model that would supply an exact calculation of design ROI. And, let’s face it: if that was the question, the answer is rather disappointing so far.

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