Return on Design Investment        

RODI: Return on Design Investment

March 4, 2015

By: Michael Prince, President Beyond Design, Inc.

As an owner of a product development consultancy, this is a question I’ve been asked many times and something I think about often. Long story short, there is no mathematical formula used to calculate the exact amount of money design adds to the return on your investment. However, throughout my years in product development, I have found one truth that consistently emerges – design is vital in all facets of business. When strategically implemented, design can be used to reduce cost, improve performance, and create desire with overall passion for a product. The following are my insights and thoughts about how Design can positively affect the ROI for business or what I like to call “RODI”.

Design, as we refer to it in this article, ranges from product development with industrial design, engineering and user interface to branding and services, to name a few. It isn’t just about a shiny new gadget or a new logo – it is about thinking beyond, and understanding how a holistic design approach can positively impact the entire user experience to strengthen your company’s return on investment.

For example, the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette with 6.2-liter V8 engine has a suggested retail price of up to $111,600. While this car has an excellent value rating because of its performance and unique heritage, it is the attention to design detail and brand positioning that makes this car special. The design intricacies add a wow factor that provides differentiation with a higher perceived value. This translates into customer loyalty, and ultimately leads to increased profits with a positive “Return On Design Investment” (RODI).


As businesses increasingly recognize the power of design it leads us to the question – how do you quantify design with metrics? It is a subjective opinion – what you like, someone else may not like and vice versa. You can, however, look towards how the new design performs. How much it costs? Do people like your product? Are they recommending it to their friends? Are the online reviews positive? These are tangible and measurable metrics. Here are three additional takeaways where I believe design can bring measurable results to your company with a greater return on investment.

1. Strategic Insights
At Beyond Design, we believe wholeheartedly that future business opportunities begin with an understanding of user behavior, their environments and unmet needs. From ethnography to online surveys, compelling questions need to be asked to determine the feature sets, price and overall acceptance level. All these can be measured and assigned a numerical value that ultimately determines the return on design investment. For example, we recently worked with Juvo Products to improve the design of a line of Daily Living Aid products.


We spoke with Occupational Therapists whose clients use these products to gain insight on all aspects of their use including must-have features. Through focus groups critical attributes were identified and implemented into the design, saving time and resources. The improved ergonomics and unique features were also used as a differentiator to help Juvo gain market placement at a higher retail price point. For this project the Return On Design Investment (RODI) enabled Juvo to gain placement at major retail establishments by delivering unique, innovative product solutions that leap-frogged
the competition.

2. Cohesive Brand Language
When business leaders begin to value design, creativity is able to flow and new ideas with solutions can be realized. It’s like the initial spark of a chain reaction that will eventually transform every aspect of that organization.


For instance, when Beyond Design created Zebra Technologies Global Product Design Language (GPDL), it initially was brought to the table because a select few within the company had prior experience, and understanding that this investment will establish long-term value along with communicating their brand message. Through design research, exploration and validation the right combination of design elements were realized. It provided a consistent look and feel across product lines including form, color, material, finish and graphics, to name a few.

The consistent brand message is distinct and enables Zebra to continue to be seen as the leader in their industry. At a glance, users now recognize visual cues that quickly identify operation touch-points across all Zebra product categories. The Return On Design Investment (RODI) can be seen in reduced development costs, faster decision making and manufacturing time because of decreased part inventory count and streamlining colors, materials and more. An additional benefit not as easily measured but also important, is the emotional engagement that the new design language has created with Zebra and their stakeholders.

3. Social Impact
We live in a fast paced economy where everyone is looking for a meaningful connections with brands. I believe design is key to creating significant user experiences that can be used to direct cultural behaviors and opinions. One example that I have seen where design is transforming an environment yet again, is the McDonald’s Corporation. Following a growing trend, McDonald’s is creating environments that incorporate natural wood and stone materials. Here design is playing a key role through the inclusion of inviting, friendly “home-like” elements that create a more casual setting tailored for social gatherings while eating. Changing the exterior and interior of their restaurants communicates the evolution of a company in order to meet the changing needs of their customers. I believe this is leading to a renewed interest with customers that will translate into longer dining times at a traditionally grab-and-go establishment. This Return On Design Investment (RODI), can easily be measured on Prior Sales versus Current Sales, as well as Projected Sales with cause and effect calculated in dollars and cents.


These are just a few ways to measure designs impact on business. By putting design at the center of the development process, it can direct and answer critical decisions in a timely manner, and help align all aspects of business to assure solutions are justifiable as well as economical to produce. The addition of Design, “D”, to the typical Return On Investment, “ROI”, provides your
company with a competitive edge that speaks loud and clear, “RODI”.

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