Are You Wasting Money on Design?

Our business card was recently featured on the HOW Design blog for “Best Business Cards in the Biz.” I first designed this card back in 2005 and it has been going strong ever since. That’s almost a decade, and the design is still fresh, relevant, and highly effective. (Our business card always elicits comments.)


The power of good design never ceases to amaze me. When a design remains largely unchanged over the long term and yet grows with its brand, you can truly see how valuable design is as a craft. I’ve written some insights below into why it’s important to invest in design the first time around, how essential this strategy is for your business and how to design for longevity to get the most out of your investment.

1. Good design is integrated with your brand.

There are a lot of places you can go to get cheap design. The result might look okay, but is it really speaking to your brand, or are you just slapping something trendy on the surface?

A solid design stems from the roots of your brand: your brand goals, your promise to your customers, your vision, mission and core values. Only from that place can design leverage power as it becomes integrated within your brand and is meaningful. Your brand’s roots drive the design, as opposed to being an exterior wrap on the surface.

I’ve always loved the quote from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead which encapsulates this point: “Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it’s made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail.”

2. Strategic design bridges the connection between your product and audience.

When design is integrated with your brand, it works for you as a selling tool, achieving specific results. It not only catches the eye but also engages, communicates, entices and convinces. Design is not just about looking good, it is about communicating effectively and building trust.

When design stems from the core of your brand, you know precisely whom you’re talking to, what you’re saying, what actions you want your customers to take, what feelings the design needs to evoke and what values speak to your audience. What is your brand communicating to your clients? How well does it deliver your value?

3. You pay more in the long run if you don’t design it right the first time.

When you don’t invest in design, the design doesn’t perform effectively and you end up spending more money down the line for a redesign, or paying more in terms of lost opportunities.

We have had many clients who were unhappy with the work of an unseasoned designer or a firm that was not a specialist in the food and product industry, before turning to us, ready to do it right. Each time these types of clients lament the time and money wasted when they were just looking for a quick fix that didn’t work.

By seeing firsthand the way ineffective design doesn’t work, they became believers the hard way in the value of good design. You can save yourself time and money by committing to value the first time.

4. Timeless design when done right remains relevant and pertinent.

It’s helpful to be aware of trends, but in most cases it’s best to avoid them. Otherwise a trendy design will quickly look dated when the trend passes, leading to a redesign sooner than you’d like. Additionally, if “everyone else is doing it,” your brand and products will blend in among the crowd.

It’s important to note that timeless design does not mean it has to be classic or traditional. Much to the contrary, fresh and groundbreaking design can be lasting as well.

Successful design continues to speak to your audience and evoke the desired feelings and trust with your audience that it set out to do in the beginning, even over long periods of time. You may need to tweak your messaging from time to time as consumers become more aware and look for specific information in brands and products, even though your design remains a constant.

5. Lasting design cultivates brand loyalty.

When your design remains largely unchanged over time, your brand will have a solid following among its audience compared to weaker design that changes often. Your customers will view your brand as strong, reliable and trustworthy. They will be in it with you for the long haul, just like your design.

We have done many packaging designs that have remained unchanged in concept over the years since we first developed them. Have a look at these iconic designs that have stood the test of time and are still going strong.

La Tourangelle Artisan Oils—11 years

Williams-Sonoma Soaps & Lotions—10 years

Meadowcroft Wine—8 years

Mitsubishi Ace of Diamonds—8 years
mitsubishi ace of diamonds

Pepper Creek Farms Sprinkles—6 years
gourmet baking co sprinkles


What do you think about design as an investment? Leave your comments below!

Hi, I’m Jenn David Connolly, creative strategist and founder of Jenn David Design. For over 20 years I’ve partnered with specialty food brands to create powerful, distinct, strategic design that commands attention and gets results.

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2 responses to “Are You Wasting Money on Design?

  1. Christen says:

    Thanks for writing this Jenn! I try to stress the importance of a thorough and careful design process to new clients and businesses all the time, but it’s challenging to get them to see the value of the investment up front. They are often eager to get started on other aspects of their new business, and want to rush through the branding/design process, assuming “Hey, we’ll just change it later if we need to”.

    I try to keep a smile on my face when I hear: “We don’t want to spend much on the logo, we just need you to whip up something simple to slap on our business cards and website.” The assumption seems to be that just HAVING a business card and website will rake in the success and traffic, regardless of what it looks like or how well designed it is.
    When I try to cite specific scenarios (such as yours) where investing in design paid off in the end, I’ve gotten some suspicious reactions like, “Well of course this person/that report would say that, it’s probably created by other designers looking to charge too much. I’ve found other resources that say a good logo should only cost $100.”

    I suppose it’s an eternal struggle fighting the search engines and all the poor information out there, but it’s encouraging to hear that your customers are still able to see the benefit of a timeless brand, and I hope I can instill this value into my own clients in the future. Thanks for lending me your eyes!

    Christen Cabe

    1. Thanks for your comments, Christen! You won’t be able to convince otherwise prospects who are looking for low-end design. It’s great that people who have no budget can get something that suffices for starting out, better than what they could do themselves, but it’s not going to suffice for the long-term. They may get to a point where they realize they’re ready to get more serious about their branding, or their business may never really take off. You want to attract prospects who already realize the value of design and don’t need convincing — that is where you want to be focusing your efforts. It helps greatly when you have a niche. Let me know if you’d like to talk more about this!

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