Ben Holliday

Putting value on design time

A short reflection about how we value design time over the outputs of design.

I was working on something for an internal project this week. Shaping the solution and sketching out the thing I was creating took me a few hours. These outputs were well received and I was quickly able to meet the requirements of the brief I’d be given.

How did I do it? I’d spent the best part of the past month thinking about it. And add to this, I was working on something for a business I’ve been part of for nearly 6 years. So I’ve already had 6 years of observations, experiences and reflections to feed into this work.

Sometimes it’s hard to put a value on ‘design time’. Those few hours of work were incredibly valuable because they were the output of a much more significant process. That work being much more than the execution of an idea and the final outputs.

Designers learn to look and observe, synthesising and processing information. Often subconsciously over time as part of responding to a brief. This eventually increases the value of what they’re able to produce as outputs, and how quickly that execution can appear to happen. Therefore, the cost of the time spent producing outputs or implementing a set of requirements if never the true cost and value of the work.

The time to do, is dependent on the time to think in design. So the value of design work has to represent both of these aspects. This includes how previous work and knowledge helps to feed that process and shapes what each designer is eventually able to create.

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.