Investment is the effort, time, money, etc… that was put into achieving the badge. It is the quantifiable aspect of what you had to do to get the badge that was awarded to you. In essence, this is what gives the badge the value that people ascribe to it, both the personal and collective value.
If the badge reward is in line with the investment required, then the value that you and others have ascribed to it will be correct. Saying that is easy though, the question that immediately pops up is how do you represent the investment value of the work needed in the badge that is awarded?
The badge needs to conceptually and visually evoke the level of time, effort and work that was invested into it.
For example, you go on to a website and you decide to join the email newsletter mailing list. For this action, you receive a badge that is represented as a golden shield with sparks and the title Super User with A+ added to it. You will likely be impressed, but the value of the excessive badge will be relatively low, especially if the next thing you do on the website is answering a 30-minute quiz and for that, you only get a silver badge, with nothing on it.
What I’m trying to point out with the example is that when you are doing a badge, the concept and the visual must align with expectations as well as the cultural understandings and comprehension of the inherent system in which it appears.
As a basic function, the badge is an acknowledgement of the effort and represents that effort. People will therefore identify with the visual of the badge for the representation of the effort that they placed in it.
What should happen then is that everything that the badge presents visually, as a sign, should be representative of what amount of effort went into it.
The reason I am repeating this in several ways is because it is important. A lot of thought should go into the visual presentation of a badge, especially if you have a long-term plan for a great many activities that all have an associated badge reward.
Essentially what you need to follow is that the lower the effort required, the less visually impressive the badge should be. The higher the effort, the more visually impressive it should be. This sounds like it’s obvious and many of you reading this will likely also think, “well obviously a lot of work needs a spectacular badge”. Unfortunately, the reality is that often when implemented, due to time or money or creative vision, the badges either become over the top for everything or they become generic with minor variations for everything.
Next to the visual representation of the badge, it must also adhere to a system of scarcity. Easy badges should not be visually impressive and should come quickly and easy, the badges for more complex and challenging tasks should visually explosive and very rare and difficult to get.
The visual nature and the scarcity of the badge will also then add to the value that the badges get ascribed. Because of this, the attained badge will also convey a level of status for the individual personally and socially. It will signal how far they have come, and all subsequent badges should then also be a promotion of status on top of the badges already received. This illustrates the progression of the individual to themselves and the community.