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Time is Money: Embracing Metrics Without Draining Creative

So does running the numbers make your design work better? No. Your mad creative skills make your design work better.

Running the numbers helps you relay the value of your work to clients or to employers.

Let’s be honest: Traditional forms of business analysis like ROI and CBA are often awkward fits for creative projects. Regardless, designers need to understand the basics because they’re a strong component of business vernacular. Looking more closely at the measurable returns from your work, comparing its success to goals collectively outlined, frames those victories in the language of business rather than in terminology insular to design. If you don’t have time or resources for a formal cost/benefit analysis, you can still use concepts from that exercise when discussing the transformative power of your creative work!

  • When you initiate conversations with your clients or employer that help them qualify and quantify aesthetic decisions, you’re expressing professional accountability and aligning your success with theirs.

You’ve also just positioned yourself as an expert, and now your client is a lot less likely to Frankenstein-design your concepts or demand that you stop using purple because his ex-wife really liked the color.

Will developing success metrics or learning how to measure outcome take some time? Yes. Are you already burning the candle at both ends? Probably. Here’s why it’s worth making that additional investment of your time and energy:

  • You can more effectively recruit new clients and new projects by showcasing the positive business outcomes of your previous work. (And you already have all of those bright, shiny case studies in your portfolio—adding this information just makes them shinier.)
  • You will strengthen relationships with existing clients because you’re illustrating how your work has proven to be critical to their success. (This is your foot in the door to suggest the new revenue streams you’ve been previously too shy to propose.)
  • Documenting the impact of design helps educate your clients, partners, or employers on its value. (This should help diffuse the inevitable á la carte conversations that clients initiate when they want to pick-and-choose services in an effort to reduce fees.)
  • You can charge more for your services because they’re based on measurable outcomes, instead of seemingly subjective aesthetic decisions (cha-ching).
  • As the project manager, design the metrics before you design the artifacts.

Take charge of how you showcase value. The numbers should never be the only bar by which creative work is evaluated (hooray, design competition eye candy!), but emphasis must be placed on our ability to generate and demonstrate impact. Think of it as standing behind the good work that you do.

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