roi of graphic design

Good graphic design can be expensive.

And if you’re a small business with a limited marketing budget, you might be wondering if spending such a large amount of that budget on graphic design is really worth it.

After all, isn’t graphic design just about “making things pretty?” Does it really matter how pretty your products or advertisements are? Will you ultimately save money if you just do it yourself?

The short answer: Good graphic design is one of the best investments you can make in your small business. While you might initially think you’re saving money for your business by DIY-ing all of your graphic design, in the long run you might be limiting your business.

Here’s a look at what kind of ROI (return on investment) good graphic design can have on your small business:

Consistent branding increases brand awareness

A huge benefit of graphic design is creating brand awareness. When your branding — which largely relies on graphic design — is consistent, consumers will begin to recognize your products/brand among the competitors. While a specific ad you ran online or in a magazine may not have led to an immediate purchase, chances are it did help a consumer remember your brand/product when they were shopping.

As this Quora member put it:

When you’re going to the grocery store and you see 25 different laundry detergents, you may not have the time to go through and read the benefits and claims on the various packages. So you pick the one you saw a TV ad for because, as the TV ad claims, this one will get rid of stains. The others probably will too, but those aren’t in your mind at the time you purchase.

This doesn’t just work for physical products, either. If you offer a service and someone is searching online for that particular service near them — and getting bombarded with search results, all with similar ratings & reviews — recalling an ad your business ran can help them make their decision.

Good graphic design makes your products/advertisements stand out

Similarly, good graphic design can make your product or brand stand out.

If you sell physical products, this can be quite literal — a product with an eye-catching label will stand out on the shelf from its competitors. I’ve caught this trick working on myself several times as I’ve perused bookstores without looking for a specific author or title. Looking at my home bookshelf now, it’s quite evident that I’m drawn to books with bright covers and bold designs. Yes, I still read the book description first to see if the subject matter will interest me — but the design is what originally got me to pick up the book in the first place.

Need a better example? This design agency helped a wine label rebrand. The results:

La Posta is one of the wines we rebranded; the client didn’t change a thing about the liquid inside the bottle. They didn’t change a thing about how they marketed it. They didn’t do any kind of boost in advertising. The only thing they changed was the rebrand when they hired us to redesign the labels. And they measured that 24 months prior to the rebrand versus 24 months after, and there was a sales increase of 19%, a sustained lift. Read more here.

Even though it may not be as obvious, good graphic design can make your brand as a whole stand out as well. Maybe your social media posts or ads gain the attention of new customers. Or maybe the sign outside your restaurant is what made someone walk in. Graphic design is everywhere — it’s not just advertising designs or social media. It can be physical signs hanging on store windows, business cards, merchandise, labels, logos … it can even bleed into website design and intertwine the design of your physical space (shop, restaurant, workshop, etc.).

Good graphic design also helps communicate your brand message

While graphic design is a lot about “making things pretty,” it’s also about clearly communicating your brand’s messaging with the consumer.

Hubspot has a great way to explain it: Graphic design helps create the “visual identity” of your “brand identity.”

“If brand identity is the personality of your business, visual identity is the visible expression of that personality. Think of a person who’s outgoing and creative (brand identity) and is known for wearing eccentric outfits and jewelry (visual identity).Brand identity gives customers the feelings they associate with your company, and it’s made up of everything that creates the brand as a whole. It includes your values, mission statement, tone and voice, style guides, brand persona, unique value props, visual assets, and more.Visual identity is a part of brand identity, but its focus is on how a brand is visually represented. It requires a separate approach from brand identity, yet it needs to complement the brand. This is why designers and creatives are usually in charge of visual identity, whereas marketers and branding teams are in charge of brand identity.” Read more here.

Design sells. It’s that simple.

Finally: Yes, design sells. People do love certain products just because they’re pretty! Think of the current Barbie craze, for example. Anything pink or with a girly, Barbie aesthetic is flying off the shelves! Are all of the products better than their non-pink competitors? Of course not. But they’re pretty. And they’re trendy. It’s simply good design!

Looking at this from a graphic design standpoint, let’s go back to the wine bottles. I bet at least one time you — or a friend — chose a bottle specifically because the label is “just so pretty!” Maybe it looks so good you even saved it to use as a flower vase. But the design is what led to the purchase. Because it really is that simple: Good graphic design sells.

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