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5 Ways Brand Design Systems Create Business Value

For nonprofits or businesses considering a rebranding, a big question for those not familiar with this process is how to quantify the value vs the investment. One way to ensure branding efforts build sustainable business value it is to approach branding as a systems-based approach to design for your brand. What this means, in short, is building a scalable framework, or Design System for executing design across every communications channel.

Usually done as part of a larger branding process, Brand Design Systems are created by first understanding the strategic business goals, organizational structure and specific communications needs of a brand, then designing an integrated set of tools, templates and guidelines to support them. The result creates greater value because it creates abrand consistency and builds a sustainable model for effectively leveraging design across an entire organization—making execution easier, more efficient, and improving results. Beyond creating better brand experiences (which should be a given), here are 5 benefits any nonprofit or business should consider when evaluating what their investment in improving their brand will return.

1. Improve Risk Management

“Risk management” probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when discussing the benefits of good design, but taking a systemic approach to designing your brand is built around a process that delivers exactly that. Broadly, process reduces execution risk by helping us arrive at more informed outcomes, and by ensuring a degree of repeatable certainty once an outcome has been established. Brand Design Systems exist specifically to help brands create consistency and certainty of execution—and the very act of creating them is a process that ensures outcomes are aligned with business strategy. They also mitigate execution risk by focusing design decision-making on strategic goals and operational needs rather than subjective preferences.

2. Speed Execution and Improve Outcomes

Just as Fed Ex has their fulfillment process down to a science, creating a framework for designing great brand experiences speeds execution, making it easier for nonprofits and businesses to respond. Inefficiency costs money, and things like proper Brand Guidelines, design grids and other tools make producing communications easier, while freeing up designers to focus on higher-value things like how their work fits within a broader brand/business strategy. What’s more, in an age where outside partners and specialists are increasingly responsible for designing brand experiences, design systems make it far easier for them to jump in with both feet and start applying their expertise.

3. Create Consistency and Build Trust

It’s often said that a mediocrely designed brand executed consistently is far better than a great looking one executed inconsistently. Why? Because brands are built on trust, and consistency breeds it by delivering on what you say you will, ensuring that the brand experience unfolds in a predictable manner (even if intentionally unpredictable…), and continuously meeting audience needs and expectations. Well, design systems are a brand’s best friend when it comes to creating consistency.

First, they integrate communications across mediums, creating a consistent narrative online, in print and in person. Second, they create consistency over time by providing a centering influence, even as your team and design partners may change. And third, they create consistency within each type of communications—for example, if you’re a nonprofit or financial services firm, research and data-heavy documents likely benefit from one approach, while more high-touch marketing materials compliment them.

4. Unite Your Organization, Inside and Out

The larger the organization, the more difficult it is to get every department singing the same brand tune. And if you’re a global nonprofit like The American Red Cross or Acumen Fund or one with lots regional members like the JDRF, keeping everyone on the same page across borders can be an enormous challenge. A design system that takes into account the operational needs of departments, divisions, chapters and offices makes it far easier for them each to speak in unison when communicating with various audiences. Even better, it can be designed to meet each audience on their terms, ensuring that communications are both on-brand and contextually appropriate.

5. Lower Costs and Increase Margins

So you’ve spent the time to really think through your brand’s communications needs strategically and operationally. You’ve created an organizational asset that reduces errors, improves efficiency, and makes it easier to develop effective communications. And you’ve leveraged this valuable tool across your entire organization. Well, it probably goes without saying that the time, effort and money spent up-front will pay significant long-term dividends your organization will reap for years moving forward.

While design systems help brands lower costs for all the measurable reasons I’ve already cited, they also help brands be quicker to the punch—because when opportunity presents itself an effective design system means you’re more ready to take advantage of it, and respond more effectively. And the consistency they create in meeting audience expectations also establishes the premium a brand can command—whether that’s a higher price for a product or higher donations.

So, If you’re serious about creating consistently great brand experiences and building the kind of loyalty that separates you from others in your space, creating a design system that meets your strategic and operational needs is one sure way to get on the fast track.

About the Author

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

Matt believes in servant leadership, working with Constructive’s clients and teams to make sure that we stay focused on what matters, and that both our partnerships and the work we produce meets our shared expectations and the highest standards. With 25 years of experience as a designer, brand strategist, and writer for the social impact sector, Matt helps Constructive’s teams design processes and practices that create brand value for nonprofits and social impact businesses—elevating how mission and purpose are translated into brand-aligned strategy, messaging, and designed experiences.

Matt contributes to the field of nonprofit design, serving on the Leadership Team for the NY chapter of The Communications Network, writing, speaking, mentoring, and conducting workshops. His work has been recognized for excellence by numerous organizations such as The Webbys, Communication Arts, Print Magazine, The Case Awards, Graphic Design USA, The W3 Awards, The Communicator Awards, and others. Matt earned his BA from Sarah Lawrence College in Writing & Visual Studies, and then conducted post-graduate design studies at the School of Visual Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, and Parsons.

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