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How to assess good design

Date: May 22 2019
How to assess good design

Having recently spent several days with the Swiss Arts Council evaluating applications and reviewing pitches from some of Switzerland’s upcoming start-ups in the creative space, I was left wondering….. what is the secret to assessing what makes ‘good design’ across a range of sectors and disciplines?

It’s easy to pull together criteria that can be used to assessing a design business’ attractiveness – and indeed, that forms a big part of the selection process we go through here at British Design Fund.

However, assessing the attractiveness of a design business for investment purposes, isn’t the same thing as assessing the merits of a particular design.

Add to this a design that has yet to be launched into the market, so which has very little user feedback to go on, and the task becomes infinitely more difficult.

The usual questions can of course be asked: Is the design fit for purpose? How innovative is the design? What problem is being solved? Can the product be made for a price that the target market will find acceptable? Etc.

These are the types of questions we ask at British Design Fund. But we have a slight advantage in that the design businesses we see have all validated their proposition in one way or another and have registered Intellectual Property in the form of a patent or design. This gives us a better understanding of their commercial attractiveness, without necessarily needing to have expertise in a particular sector.

But when faced with assessing a line-up of fashion labels, homeware ranges, furniture designs, interior design concepts and personal accessories for instance, is there certain criteria that can be applied, which will work across them all?

The answer is having a diverse mix of creative minds in the room, spanning as many of the disparate disciplines of design as possible. In the case of the Swiss Arts Council, this approach worked really well.

The assessment criteria certainly provided some structure and fairness to the whole process. However, it was the diverse mix of opinions, coming from a rich variety of design experiences and backgrounds, that enabled us to assess each design fairly.

For example, the way that an artist perceives the purpose of a design, compared to an industrial designer or a fashion designer, varies significantly. Other questions are asked, such as: How much should design provoke new ways of thinking or approaching a task?  How important is functionality and accessibility?  How should the feel and aesthetics of a design be measured?

A common thread running through everything is purpose. What purpose has a design been created for and how well is that purpose being achieved? End users come in many different shapes and sizes and have differing needs and fears. If a design doesn’t fit with a user’s needs, then its fair to say that the design has failed.

British Design Fund Co-Founder, John Mathers, also Chairs the DRUM Design Awards and speaks of ‘good ideas, beautifully crafted’ when considering applications, judging a design on the underpinning idea that has shaped it, how well it has been executed and what result was directly attributable to the design.

If you can get a room full of diverse creatives to agree on these key points, then you are well on your way to finding a ‘good design’.

By Damon Bonser, CEO British Design Fund


Looking for investment for your product business?

If you have a well-designed product that fulfils a distinct need, or solves an important problem, then get in touch.  Applications for funding through the British Design Fund can be submitted here, or for more information email us using enquiries@britishdesignfund.co.uk.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can invest in future British Design Funds, then please visit https://growthinvest.com/investment-opportunities/fund/british-design-fund-2/

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