Design is just “fluff”

Rather surprisingly some people still think design won’t add value to their company, that it’s therefore not worth investing in because it doesn’t matter. Not in real terms. Not in the way that a real service might, like a repair guy fixing your machinery or an accountant who saves you on your tax bill, that’s “real” value. It never fails to amaze me that some people think it’s easy, this design thing, and therefore they devalue the profession further. Sure you can buy—or get free—desktop publishing software that will let you create your own design work for your organisation, so why on earth would you want to pay for a designer to do it for you?

Perhaps I can offer a reason to recognise why a designer can be worth their weight in gold; and it’s not about a job we did, in fact I don’t even know who produced the design.

Recently I found myself dealing with something that, unfortunately, many of us will have to do at some point in our lives: deal with an undertaker. Nothing could have been further from my mind than design during this period of immense sadness. We had to choose a coffin, handles, details, plaques and so on—and yes, of course everything had been designed by someone. But even a highly tuned designer didn’t see it and only now, three years later, am I recognising the immense effort these designers made in ensuring that the process was as automated as possible.

You might think describing something as “automated” when it comes to design is a disparaging comment, but it’s a compliment. I can’t thank the designers enough for making the processes easy. You have a myriad of forms to fill out and when you’re emotionally volatile you don’t want a form to break you, yet the design of the paperwork had clearly been considered. It was a process that we were gently guided through to the point that we barely noticed we had dealt with the hardest thing I think I’ve ever had to do.

Compassion.. in a form? Would someone using a free DTP program manage that?

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