The value of design in business is hard to quantify. For many businesses, design is seen as a vehicle for distributing a product — an afterthought relegated to packaging or wrappers.

However, a new generation of brands have taken another approach and integrated thoughtful design into the products they sell. Large brands like Warby Parker and Everlane have connected with consumers by integrating strong design into their product and buying experience.

These large businesses have achieved national reach by eschewing traditional distribution and marketing platforms for digital, affordable technology solutions. Instead of distributing in brick-and-mortar stores, they distributed online first. Similarly, their marketing efforts were focused on digital and social strategies, rather than more traditional outlets.

Affordable technology meant that instead of needing millions of dollars to distribute and market their products, they could reach the same number of people faster and for much less money. One area they clearly focused their energy and money on was design – helping them stand out from the crowd.

While following this strategy doesn’t guarantee your business will attain Warby Parker’s level of success (unfortunately), it does highlight the powerful position design plays in the world of retail. Design becomes a selling point unto itself. It’s an added feature in addition to the product’s original function. Everlane sells products that are affordable, functional, and well-made, but they are known for their exceptional design. Brands that align themselves closely to design are often considered more innovative than their peers; as Apple has demonstrated, being considered a leader in your field produces sizable returns.

There’s a lesson here for small businesses: design can’t be an afterthought. The same amount of attention that is devoted to developing your product should also be spent on design. If you are launching a business or looking to increase sales, don’t overlook the power design can have on your impact and identity in the market.

Over the next few weeks, we will feature client projects that showcase the power of design in small business success. Let us know what you think on Facebook and Twitter. First, we’ll visit our client Black Sheep Restaurant in Riverside. Black Sheep is an excellent example of design serving as the center of a successful small business or brand. Its strong, recognizable logo was achieved through a rigorous and collaborative design process. The entire look and feel of the restaurant complements that design – heightening the dining experience and encouraging customers to return.