The obvious place designers go when trying to calculate the bottom line is to ask the question, If I change the design, how much more income could we generate? But there’s another way design can help: reducing the costs.

A much-overlooked portion of design’s value is that poor design is very costly to an organization. Poor design generates costly support calls. It causes lost sales or dropped subscriptions. Poor design can increase development costs through rework and waste.

When we start looking for where poor design hurts our organization, we can talk about how much money we’d save. We make it easier to calculate the return to our investment for making better design decisions.

This part of Jared’s article really resonated with me, as it gets to the heart of what a design system can help address. When I talk about design systems at organizations with Josh Clark and Dan Mall, we talk about the heartache of design at scale. We’ll show a rough interface inventory showcasing a bunch of similar-but-different button designs, and stress how each one of those buttons represents someone’s time, energy, and resources. Rework and waste indeed. A design system increases ROI largely because it reduces cost rather than directly increasing revenue (although that’s certainly possible too!).