Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Despite the inroads made by brand design agencies in establishing the value of what they do, as an industry, there is still a long way to go. All too often, value is seen in monetary terms, which supports the myth that creativity (which is often difficult to quantify) lacks value in the business world.

This is, of course, not true. Creativity has real purpose; it yields useful results. It is about finding distinctive solutions to often complex challenges. Without creativity, there is no innovation, no inspiration, no soul, and, ultimately, very limited growth for brands and businesses. Yet the disconnect remains.

In a creativity-fuelled industry, designers need to redefine themselves and entrench the value that design plays in business. It must be shown that design is not merely superficial; it goes far beyond a cosmetic “surface treatment” for a brand. Ultimately, design must be repositioned as a business asset – we need to show that great design goes hand in hand with great strategy in terms of realising a brand’s business imperatives.

While, generally speaking, fee structures are based on time – research, to conceptualisation, development and implementation – creative inspiration does not always happen within a scheduled project framework. Sometimes, a concept can take days or even weeks to resolve. At other times, it is cracked in a few hours.

To illustrate: Paula Scher, designer and partner at Pentagram (one of the world’s largest independently owned design studios), infamously sketched the iconic Citi logo on a paper napkin in a mere couple of seconds. When asked how a multibillion-dollar organisation such as Citi could base its identity on a design that was sketched in one second, she simply answered: “It’s a second done in 34 years.”

The big take-out

Creativity is often hard to quantify and, as a result, it is seen to have less value in the world of business. To rectify this, perceptions about creativity and its role in a business context must be redefined.

Could it be that, as an industry, designers themselves have started to undervalue what they do? As such, there are two key questions to ask. First, how does one go about assigning a financial value to a great creative solution? And, second, do we fully appreciate the role and contribution of excellent creative work in terms of the total brand value chain?

We could argue that creativity, as both a subjective discipline and a commodity, is still largely misunderstood. Consequently, it remains hugely undervalued – not only by our clients, but by ourselves – as an industry which continues to perpetuate the status quo.

Creative industries, whether the arts, drama or music (or, indeed, brand design), have always been greatly underappreciated by society. Historically speaking, artists have largely been undervalued – think of Beethoven or Van Gogh. Only the lucky few, who have gained notoriety or fame in their lifetime, seem to enjoy concomitant financial appreciation and status.

The value of creativity is often beyond measure. And, herein lies the conundrum: while it is not always possible to quantify the full value of creativity within a business context, creativity will continue to be undervalued if we fail to show the role it is able to play in growing brands and in growing our economy.

By shifting perceptions about the role that the design industry plays in commerce (and, ultimately, in growing our economy), we can go a long way in terms of building a deeper appreciation of creativity as a key driver in the brand value chain – beyond face value.

• Simone Rossum is executive creative director at Shift Joe Public.