Seth Godin’s “Return on Design” is a great review of design’s role in marketing, but, did he go far enough?

Posted March 8th @ 9:42 pm by Roger C. ParkerPrint

seth-godin-head-clickme2Seth Godin, in his blog post of March 8, Return on Design, has some (as usual) perceptive words about the role of design in marketing success.

Seth is the author of 11 marketing books, including the highly-influential and still worth reading Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Strangers which was an Amazon.com Top 100 best-seller for a year. (You can still download 2 free chapters–worth doing!)

Seth, who wrote the Foreword to my Streetwise Guide to Relationship Marketing on the Internet, divides design’s possible contribution to marketing success into 4 categories:

  1. Negative return. In this case, characterized by design damages your image and confuses your message, design costs you money and lost customers.
  2. No impact. Here, design does not have either a positive or a negative impact. It just “is.” In his words, “It’s good enough.
  3. Positive return. In this case, design generates incremental sales and increased utility.
  4. The whole thing. As Seth describes, “there are a few products where smart design is the product (or at least the product’s reason for being).

In discussing the 4 possible contributions that design can make to marketing success, Seth views the topic primarily from the point of view of product design (i.e., iPods, Porsche 911′s, etc.) or facilities design, i.e. retail stores and signage.

Did he go far enough?
I only wish Seth, and most business commentators on design, would focus more on the role that print and online graphic design plays with establishing images and facilitating product or marketing message usability.

Whether it’s a white paper that goes unread, or a website so information-rich visitors can’t find or do anything, design is more than product or place.

More important, since desktop publishing reinvented the tools of graphic design in the 1980′s, businesses no longer have to be good to profit from graphic design. Image and readability are now within the reach of all who care to take advantage of available resources.


Free online resources. Visit Design to Sell Online where you can find dozens of free newsletters and plus a 14-page report, White Paper Design that Sells, plus other resources to help you profit from creating quality graphic design on a budget.


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