Finland to become a leader in measuring the effects of design

Tea trolley, '900', wood, ceramic, plastic, cane, rubber, designed by Alvar Aalto, made by Artek, Finland, 1936-37

Last year Dhub published an article on Australia’s need to increase productivity with investment in integrated business strategy to strengthen the manufacturing sector. The proposal will increase the success of creative ventures such as those undertaken by designers while improving Australia’s competitiveness on a global scale through improved skill base. With a pinch of ‘risk-taking’ and big dose to trust and investment Professor Roy Green from UTS Business School, outlined how this can be done to emulate the productivity success experienced by other countries around the world.

We have always supported the link between good design and the economy however if you have been wondering how a ‘return on investment’ (ROI) in design is measured the Finnish may have come up with a solution. Recently the Design ROI research project carried out in Finland between 09/2011–09/2012, aimed at developing both a model and indicators to measure the benefits of design investments. The project was funded by the Aalto University, Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 and fifteen member agencies of Finnish Design Business Association FDBA. This project creates a common language between design and business. Design ROI will be a tool for companies and design agencies for measuring and predicting financial outcomes of design.


Design ROI will be a tool for companies and design agencies for measuring and predicting financial outcomes of design. The project was initiated by the design agencies need to be able to evaluate their work and is especially valuable for the SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) sector of business life. The Design ROI project was carried out with the support of the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 year and was a part of its program. One of the core objectives of the design capital year is to increase the understanding of design’s role as a promoter of business life and economics. Measurement of design is a major cornerstone of success in business economics and long awaited by both business life, design agencies and the public sector.

Design impacts have been measured earlier. In Great Britain an average design investment has been calculated to multiply the turnover by 2.25 when compared with the invested resources. In Denmark companies investing in design have gained a growth 22 % greater than companies that have not invested in design and the difference will rise up to 40 % when talking about continuous investing. Design ROI is a trailblazer in compacting the collected data into a tool. Professor Jaakko Aspara from Aalto University comments:

“From an exploratory point of view Design ROI is a very ambitious project. We have such knowledge of design and business management in Finland that there is a good reason to presume that we will succeed in this challenge. Design ROI is a concrete solution to an extremely large problem that has delayed the impact of the otherwise well-developed design sector on society.”

In business economics, the greatest impacts of design know-how may still lie ahead as, despite its reputation, the Finnish business life utilises design often only on a tactic level where design is typically understood as designing the characteristics and appearance of a product. This implies that design projects are not seen as being part of strategic decision-making of an enterprise. Several companies also still perceive that design has nothing to contribute to their business activities and that, due to the lack of indicators, justifying investments in design is difficult. Project Manager Antti Pitkänen, Design ROI, clarifies:

“Our tool aids at not only measuring the outcome of design but also at understanding design more broadly. There is a huge growth potential in Finland in companies where design is either a totally unfamiliar activity or it is utilised occasionally. A great part of Finnish exports relies on design and this export asset could be exploited even more.”

The Design ROI project by the Finnish Design Business Association FDBA and Aalto University has a central role in the program of the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 year. The newly launched tool confirms the new role of design in business life. The theme was to continue in November anticipation of the National Design Policy of Finland to be published. The Design ROI project and development of the tool will continue with partners after the design capital year of 2012 – with an even more successful Finland as its goal.

Design ROI research report can be downloaded (in Finnish) here and from (website in Finnish).