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Design is often placed on second-tier status by businesses seeking to verify and justify their expenses. Historically, Return on Investment for design and marketing has been difficult to measure accurately, especially for smaller organizations like many of our clients. As designers and brand strategists, we are as guilty as anyone of not placing ROI at the top of the “things to worry about” when we approach our work.

Well – something is changing, and like so many changes of late, that something is being driven by the internet. Gone are the days of fuzzy data, anecdotal sales response, and theorizing about traffic. Now we have google analytics and other tools that help us know what is going on every day, what the change over time looks like, and ways to monitor and affect that change.

Case in point. In early December we launched a new website for client Luis and Clark (, leading manufacturer and designer of carbon-fiber stringed instruments. We’ve enjoyed our relationship with Luis & Clark for a long time, and we’ve helped grow their business over the years by managing and developing their brand methodically to demonstrate their mastery of the field. We’ve handled their collateral, direct mail, advertising, photography and web presence since 2003. During that time their sales have grown significantly, but it has always been difficult for us to see the direct impact of our efforts compared to the anecdotal impact of word of mouth, face-to-face sales and other elements outside of our immediate sphere.

With the new site, we are tapped into not only that analytics of their site traffic; the who, where, when of web visitation; but we are tied into the sales results and conversions of visitors, inquiries, site registrations and ultimately sales. This connection gives us a real sense of what customers are getting from the website, what pathways they are taking, and potentially what we can do as designers to enhance the experience. We’re tapped into the ROI now and now we can see the benefits of our work. The day we connected the site to a popular viral video on youtube that featured one of their violas? Site traffic up 300% for the day and a commensurate reflection in sales for the period.

Obviously, this is nothing new to people who spend their time in ecommerce and site optimization. But it is an important development for many of our clients, who are small businesses with limited resources to manage, monitor and track the impact that their marketing and communications is having. The transparency that we can share with them of analytics, wordpress and other tools in sharing the data has really been a boon to them and to their success.

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