Why Design Effectiveness is Good News

The DEA's are the closest thing we have to a respected benchmark for design services that business can believe in.

One of Good’s driving principles has been to help move the needle on how design services, in all their many forms, are bought and measured. To fly the flag for our professionalism and expertise to be respected alongside the elite of professional services, the likes of lawyers, accountants and management consultants. We firmly believe that true design and branding consultancy, when done well with rigour, insight, integrity and imagination is more powerful than any in driving sustainable change and shareholder value in business.

Anything we can do to further this end is front of mind on any project or initiative we undertake, which brings me neatly to the Design Effectiveness Awards.

They are the only awards we enter for the very good reason outlined above and the only awards, from my knowledge, that clients have ever shown any real interest in. The only awards where the client, not designers, judge the quality of the work through the lens of positive impact. Style and Substance.

The DEA’s are the brainchild of the Design Business Association (DBA). If you haven’t heard of them, you should have. In my opinion, they are the closest thing the design industry has to a governing body, and one that is mutually respected by the very calibre of client we aspire to work with.

The DEA’s are the only one of their kind. An award to prove the impact of design, in all its glory, in society and business. And by definition it isn’t easy to either enter or indeed, to win. The process can take years. The goals set in the brief, at the inception of the project, have to be monitored and measured. Data gathered. Markets and performance against trends analysed. Competitors benchmarked and other influencing factors considered and factored in. And that’s just for starters.

These awards are not for the faint-hearted or for the shiny shiny bullshit merchants so prevalent in our industry. They are intrinsically difficult and rightly so. You need a client partner who believes. A client who isn’t afraid to be measured by ROI and that doesn’t mean ‘page views’ or ‘likes’. This group are the exception rather than the rule, welcoming the interrogation that accompanies a robust entry as, no matter the outcome, they know it’ll make them better as marketers.

We relish the challenge of entering the DEA’s every year as it underpins our guiding principles as an ethical and effective branding consultancy. The process of entry is a right of passage at Good. We use it as a way of embedding a ‘Put the client's client first’ mentality in our team. We’re by no means the finished article, things fall through the net, the right metrics are sometimes hard to expose and measure, but it acts as a focus to educate and grow our team in our image. We must give the right advice, at all times, to achieve our client’s goals.

Over the last 14 years of entering, we had many great successes, but equally, we’ve had frustrating failures. The wins are the icing on the cake of great work. We managed to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to a select group of the world’s most respected businessmen and women, that responsible and innovative design made all the difference.

The failures are never a total loss. The process and judging are so rigorous that it’s never a sure thing, but the journey always has learnings. Each entry helps us grow as individuals and more importantly as a team. What went wrong? Where can we improve? What can we put in place to help? New processes? New thinking? A whole new approach? We learn and grow, and by osmosis, our clients and partners benefit from our deeper understanding and renewed vigour.

Being honest, I’m actually not a big fan of awards full stop. Too often I’ve seen the pursuit of gongs take the eye off the goal’s agreed in the brief for no better reason than misplaced ego. However, the DEA’s are unique, they involve the client and are judged by the client. Not for being pretty, but for the impact the work has achieved. Not a creative or a subjective viewpoint in sight.

Are they perfect? No, they're not. But they are the closest thing we have to a respected benchmark for design services that business can believe in. They are a starting point that has been continually questioned, adapted and honed by the DBA working closely with key client bodies and responsible design teams over many years. For a relatively young industry that sometimes struggles for proper recognition and remuneration for its services, it’s a vital ally in helping us win the war on design charlatans and vapid creative.

Win or lose, our support for the DBA and the DEA’s is resolute. The good far outweighs the bad. Having the conviction and commitment to enter has massive benefits for both client and agency in learnings, no matter the result. It’s definitely got harder over the years as the entries grow and competition becomes fiercer, and I suspect it’s only going to get tougher as momentum gathers globally over the coming years.

There is no excuse not to enter, other than the client doesn't have the necessary data or can't provide the support needed. Enter because you believe in the impact of quality design and to benchmark yourself against the best. Enter for the learnings for you, your client and your team. Enter to further the cause for design to be recognised for its power to change the world. Or enter simply for the challenge. After all, what good ever came out of taking the easy path?