DIY – Design It Yourself

By Chris Wadsworth

Published in the Source issue 5

As New Zealanders we pride ourselves on being a nation of innovators. However our can-do attitude is often a result of having to make do.

A lack of investment in business and products is a major factor holding our economy back. The reason for this lack of investment is the poor performance of our small economy, a typical catch-22.

One area where under investment is apparent is the way many companies approach branding and design. Any business operating overseas, exporting their product or targeting an international audience needs strong branding and communications material to compete in the international arena. It’s particularly important if we are to change the world’s perception of New Zealand as a farming nation which is a barrier for many businesses, particularly those involved in technology.

Countries in Europe, North America and parts of Asia have highly developed design industries that support their nation’s business growth and expansion into new markets. To compete we not only need their knowledge and skills but their level of investment too.

For businesses operating in the small domestic market it’s not unusual to face fierce competition and any initiative that provides a competitive advantage is going to aid business success. It’s a proven fact that businesses that invest in design perform better than their competitors, so why aren’t more New Zealand businesses investing in design?

Business start-ups

Getting a new business up and running is costly and needs have to be balanced with financial resources. This often leads to branding and design being compromised by engaging inexperienced contacts through family and friends or by the business owner designing marketing and communications material themselves. Entering a market looking like an uncredible newcomer is going to hold back essential growth opportunities and is a big contributor to the high failure rate of start-up businesses in New Zealand.

New business ventures can often benefit from effective branding and design more than their established competitors. Looking professional and communicating the right messages as a start-up business will make the difficult task of establishing a business and building a client base easier. By projecting the right image it’s possible to build up the necessary trust for prospects to make the decision to engage a service or purchase a product.

A business owner once told me that if she hadn’t had the budget for professional branding and design when she was getting her business off the ground she wouldn’t have bothered starting it. Wise words.

Small business

Poorly designed collateral and unprofessional branding can make any business appear small and ineffective. However when a consistent and considered approach is taken to branding and design a small business will often be perceived as being larger and more able than they actually are. This is a massive benefit for any business looking to grow as it will aid their quest to acquire larger clients which in turn gives them more credibility.

Unfortunately, a lot of small businesses don’t invest in design and a DIY approach prevails. A lack of understanding and knowledge means many businesses don’t enjoy the advantages an experienced designer can bring them. By helping to generate leads and to close deals effective design material makes business easier and creates more time to focus on other aspects of the business.

Corporate DIY

It’s not only small businesses that are held back by a DIY approach to branding and design.

Most large businesses don’t have the need to employ a in-house designer full-time and tend to split the responsibility between their IT or marketing employees. It is these companies that would benefit most from outsourcing their design needs. By utilising their current team members in the role of design they are taking them away from their main roles of supporting and growing the business. They not only compromise the effectiveness of those positions but also hinder the effectiveness of company branding and communications by giving someone with limited design knowledge, experience and ability the responsibility of this important business activity.

Fix the problem

The success of our businesses is essential to New Zealand’s economy. Investing in the services of experienced professionals will help our businesses grow and prosper while building up a network of support industries that can excel at an international level and change global perceptions of our special place at the far side of the planet.

Posted 17 August 2010

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