The Cost of Bad Design

The next time someone asks me how good data visualization actually contributes to a better bottom line, I’m going to retell this story.

Some time ago, I sat in a meeting with 11 other people. We were reviewing evaluation findings, presented via charts, which were created by another researcher (not present). You know this scene. You’ve been there a hundred times. The group spent 20 minutes just trying to dissect a single chart. It wasn’t the data that was confusing. It wasn’t the chart type, either. But it was the little things like color and labeling that confused the 11 of us (an educated group, too, I should point out). So what did that bad design cost?

6 people are paid $600/day, which means we spent $150 on their confusion
1 person at $400/day = $17
1 person at $300/day =  $13
1 person at $250/day = $10
2 people at $1,000/day = $83

So one poor chart design cost our group $273, which is actually more than the daily rate (salary and benefits) for one of the meeting attendees.

Ouch. And this doesn’t include the time it took for the report author to develop the poor chart in the first place, or the time that person will put in to make the chart clearer. Bad design is expensive. Thus, investment in some professional development around good design or even consultation with an actual graphic design may literally pay off in the end.

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1 Comment

  1. karens

     /  May 18, 2012

    why is there so much written on the cost of quality and so little written on the cost of design….true innovation is about succeeding on the end result of the cost of manufacturability…high quality and safety accomplished at the lowest cost of manufacturability…right?

    Reply

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