The ROI of Design

Just like with any purchased service or product, it is important to know whether the graphic design services you purchase are performing and therefore worth the investment you are putting into them. Being able to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of design is of the utmost importance to a successful branding and marketing strategy, but it is also notoriously difficult. Many of the realms of graphic design fall outside clear-cut financial performance indicators.

Here are some basic strategies to best measure design ROI, the challenges you are likely to face, and some advice on setting realistic ROI goals when purchasing design work.


Ways of Measuring Design ROI:

Throughout the business world, ROI is measured in financial gain over money spent, but graphic design more often then not doesn’t fit into this clear-cut model. Some areas of design (usually those associated with a specific product or message) are close enough to this model to make ROI measurement fairly straightforward. For example:

  • Packaging design measured against units sold
  • ‘Call to Action’ advertising measured against response rate
  • Catalogue design measured against repeat/multiple purchase rate

Digital design such as websites and banner advertising design are much easier to measure thanks to the analytics tools available to measure instant response across a variety of aspects.


Challenges of Measuring Design ROI:

Where most people (clients and designers alike) struggle is in the area of branding. How do you measure the impact of brand-building design such as logo design, promotional material and print communications? You can consider overall company profit, but as more things than just branding influence profits, this isn’t really a very good indicator of ROI. In order to measure the success or failure of your investment in brand building, you have to look to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) outside of finances. These could include:

  • General website/store traffic
  • Social media response (number of ‘likes’ or ‘follows’)
  • Perceived emotive response of staff and customers (are they pleased to be associated with your company or product?)

These indicators can eventually lead to financial returns, but generally they will require additional influencers apart from branding design to convert to a sale.


Realistic Design ROI:

The most important thing to consider when setting ROI goals is to understand that the design may not be the ultimate influencer. Even in the case of packaging or advertising design, other things may influence customer response such as peer reaction, or personal experiences and prejudgements.

You must also be realistic in your projections. To help with this it is a good idea to consider best-case and worst-case scenarios. What is the best result you can hope for? What is your break-even point (the minimum response you require to equal your investment)? Once you know the best and worst, the average between the two is generally a good goal to aim for. That way if you exceed it, great; but if you fail to hit the mark you can still read a positive as long as your response was above your break-even point. In the event that response was below your break-even point the ROI would be a negative and that form of design needs to either be dropped from your strategy or re-evaluated before being used again.

Discussing ROI with your designer during the briefing stage is very good practice as it lets them know what ‘success’ looks like and how their designs will be evaluated.



Now that you know how to best measure ROI of graphic design, and how to set realistic ROI goals for the designs you commission, you can feel more confident in purchasing design. You will be able to measure its success and justify your investment against that success.



If you would like some graphic design advice or have a project you’d like to discuss, please give us a ring on 02381 157833 or email us: