Leverage Design as a Business Asset

Mark Busse – One Comment

Industrial Brand was recently featured in an article called Leverage Design as a Business Asset in Business in Vancouver’s 2011 edition of How-To, their annual publication of practical tips for business. The article (reproduced below) by GDC/BC‘s Copywriting Chair, Eagranie Yuh, argues that businesses who invest in hiring experienced designers have an advantage and reap rewards in the long term.

Leverage Design as a Business Asset
by Eagrane Yuh

Think about your business assets: human resources, information technology, investments, property and design.

That’s right: design. In a recent poll of 526 businesses conducted by Harris/Decima, 63 per cent of respondents reported a link between design and better business performance.

A recent study from the United Kingdom shows that three-quarters of businesses that have made design an integral part of their operations have improved their competitive advantage.

How does visual strategy translate into business success?

Differentiating your product

Level Ground Trading in Victoria was one of the first companies to market fair-trade coffee, but since its beginnings in 1997, many similar companies had entered the market. Consumers liked Level Ground’s coffee and key message but not the packaging and design of the product.

Level Ground worked with Subplot Design Inc., which overhauled the company’s brand strategy, logo and packaging. From a decline of 1.3 per cent in sales from the prior year, Level Ground saw an increase in sales of 12 per cent across its main categories.

“It finally gave them a way to tell the story that they hadn’t had in the past,” says Roy White, CGD, creative director and partner at Subplot Design.

Reaching your target market

In 2009, Amacon, a real-estate and development and construction firm, launched District, a condominium complex in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. “We really had to build brand awareness, because there were limited developments like District in the area. We needed to sell the area,” says Nic Jensen, Amacon’s sales and marketing manager.

Amacon hired Industrial Brand, a Vancouver design firm, to target a specific demographic with a cohesive campaign that included a website, a display centre, brochures and several 40-foot billboards.

Amacon opened the display suites on September 15, 2009, intending to sell 75 per cent of the units by the end of the year. By the close of opening weekend, the first building was sold out. Three months later, the second building was sold out, and Amacon closed the sales centre, a full nine months ahead of schedule.

“The pre-sale market wasn’t very strong at that time, especially in a new area. The campaign was exactly what we needed,” says Jensen.

Gaining a competitive edge

Read Jones Christoffersen (RJC) is Canada’s oldest engineering firm. Its outdated website didn’t reflect the stature of a company that had been in business for six decades and completed more than 30,000 projects. “We needed to bring the personality of the firm to the forefront,” says Patricia Glass, RJC’s marketing specialist.

Industrial Brand revamped the website. Search-engine optimized, the new site has a robust search function that has brought in new clients. What’s more, a new recruitment interface has significantly streamlined RJC’s recruitment process.

Becoming more efficient

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is Canada’s leading retailer of quality outdoor gear and clothing. With 14 stores across the country, the company has a strong brand and consistency across its visual communications.

This is primarily due to MEC’s brandstandards guide. The 38-page guide provides explicit instructions for the company’s visual communications: logo, font, colours, in-store signage, store exteriors, website and more.

For Judy Snaydon, CGD, MEC’s creative director, the guide ensures consistency and enables efficiency. “We work with a lot of external vendors. If we didn’t have brand standards, I’d be constantly having to outline who we are, what we’re about and what our brand looks like. With brand standards, I can stop worrying about these things and focus on the objectives of each project.”

Using design as a business asset

These companies have leveraged design as a business asset and invested in strong visual strategies. In working with certified designers, they work with providers who incorporate strategy, problem-solving and business acumen into the process. The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) is the professional association for certified graphic designers (CGD). To be certified, a graphic designer must pass a rigorous portfolio review and abide by a code of ethics.

The society’s website provides resources for businesses to find certified designers and to determine whether they they themselves are working with reputable designers. For more information, visit

Eagranie Yuh is copywriting chair for the B.C. Mainland chapter of GDC. She is a freelance business writer and award-winning blogger. She also teaches chocolate-tasting classes.


This article from Business in Vancouver How-To 2011.

Business in Vancouver has been publishing in-depth local business news, analysis and commentary since 1989. The newspaper also produces a weekly ranked list of the biggest companies and players in a wide range of B.C. industries and commercial sectors, monthly features and industry-focused sections that arm its subscribers with a complete package of local business intelligence each week.

From How-To, published by BIV Magazines. Copyright © 2011, BIV Magazines, a division of BIV Media LP. Reproduced with permission.