Uncle Sam Acknowledges the Importance of Design in Business. Have You?

October 2022

Design samples

Pairing graphic design with imagery creates powerful messaging. Thank you to the following collaborators whose imagery is pictured here: John Kuczala, John Jay Cabuay, Jan Feindt, Zhenia Vasiliev, Mark Lipczynski and Robert Pizzo. ©Twirling Tiger Media

Creatives, rejoice. Based on the recent U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey, Uncle Sam has acknowledged your talents as paramount in the workplace.

Tasked with completing these surveys, I am familiar with the typical “sections” of questions like company information, owner characteristics, research activities, goods, services, and business processes and technology. But wait, there it was, Section F (for finally).


The following questions ask about the role that design plays in your business. Design defined broadly is everywhere—decisions in making any good or service contribute to design. We are interested in collecting information on clear design activities defined as part of structured creative processes.

Giddy with excitement, I found that Section F contained 13 thoughtfully considered questions. Broadly outlined below, Sam was inquiring about the impact of creative thinkers’ roles and their effect on the appearance and attractiveness of the final good or service:

  1. Is there a structured approach to design activities?
  2. Are resources for design activities available?
  3. Do design activities have a budget?
  4. Does the business conduct design-related engineering activities such as CAD or prototypes? (I’m surprised they did not mention AI-generated imagery. I’m kidding there, but broad use is coming.)
  5. Does this business provide resources for design-related engineering activities, and if so, do they have a budget?
  6. Are any design activities performed by employees or contractors?
  7. What types of employees and contractors routinely perform design activities?
  8. How many employees and/or contractors routinely performed design activities in 2019 and 2021?
  9. How are the employees and/or contractors who routinely perform design activities organized: working independently, in small teams, multiple teams, and/or centralized?
  10. What is this business’s approach to design?
  11. How much do you expect this business’s resources for design activities to change over the next three years?
  12. What methods does the business use for intellectual property protection?
  13. And, one last question about additional intellectual property protection methods.

You are disadvantaged if you’ve answered no to most of these questions. You are doomed to stale solutions if imaginative people are missing from your company’s product development and marketing ecosystem.

The government’s acknowledgment of the importance of design thinkers as an integral part of your business ecosystem signals it is no longer a nice-to-have but a critical cog in the wheel of your success.

Design-thinking companies are full of divergent thinkers solving problems in innovative ways. Creatives use an innovation process to distill complexity, create balance and connect dots others may not see. They generally come with an extra dose of empathy because they are acutely sensitive to their surroundings and process information by observing, absorbing, and feeling. Empathy is key to understanding your audience.

Follow Uncle Sam’s signal and nurture a creative culture to allow for robust ideation for problem-solving and fierce design solutions (not ordinary) that attract and engage your target audience.

For help getting started, review Twirling Tiger Media’s ebooks on the design topic, “Business Imperative: Be Creative” and “Secrets of a Visual Storyteller.”

Thank you for reading this.

—Maureen Joyce