The importance of strategic design

Roger Martin

Most times, designers and agencies spend time convincing stakeholders or clients that they can create so much more than just good-looking visuals. Talented design teams are able to solve business challenges and translate a brand strategy into visuals, however, internal teams and clients often don’t believe designers can come up with the strategy as well.

Designers are expected to follow a brief and deliver the functional aspect of a brand identity (fonts, colours, logo…) instead of the brand identity as a whole which is a subtle equilibrium between creativity and strategy. A powerful brand identity is what reveals its singularity.

A collaborative approach is fundamental

Strategic design focuses on both functionality and aesthetics in order to achieve the brands' objectives. It allows creating custom-made solutions that correspond directly to the brand and differentiates it from competitors.

It’s crucial for designers and agencies to be part of the strategic discussions of any brand they are working with. Before starting any design work, a strategic workshop should be organised and it is key to have different profiles taking part in it, representing different pillars of the business to get the most out of it. It brings together the different dimensions of an organization, which together shape its unique identity through graphic assets, the product, the physical and virtual space, and the senses (visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory). Strategic design takes into account the transformation of the environment.

These workshops and brainstorming sessions, when well lead, validate the design direction that should be taken as well as rule out other paths. Strategic design allows to be efficient and successful straight away. This is why designers need to be involved from A to Z in the process when creating or refreshing a brand’s identity as they can provide constant experience and feedback to identify, test, and deliver sustainable solutions.

For a long time, good design has been considered by companies as the icing on the cake and a bonus at the end of the process. This is why strategic design has emerged and progressively takes on greater importance as it is seen by companies as a central tool that is part of the process in order to create value for their business.

The benefits of a strategic design approach are to not only have creative ideas, but it’s also knowing how to apply these ideas into the competitive market and responding to the needs of the targeted audience.

Strategic design creates business value

Joel Spolsky

A good brand identity can persuade new customers to interact with the brand as well as convince existing customers to continue to connect with it. It is also an important internal tool to strengthen employee engagement and satisfaction. It helps increase the value of your business, both in terms of profits and notoriety.

That’s why a well-thought brand identity using a strategic design approach is so important. It defines and drives the emotional part of a brand. This exercise can be done to reinforce customers’ buy-in or to create an emotion that will persuade new customers to collaborate with a brand.

Great design is necessary

To stand out in a competitive world, only great design can help brands become unforgettable and consistently meet customers’ high expectations.

Yet, the misperception that design is only about the looks still remains. That’s why, in today’s fast-paced and changing society, it’s more important than ever to understand the value of working hand-in-hand with designers using a strategic design approach.

It can be challenging to persuade clients or management teams to work this way as it’s often easier to hand out a brief to designers and expect them to come back with exactly what was in someones’ mind. Though an email or piece of paper cannot replace the collaborative mindset, human, behavioral attitudes, and the different opinions faced during a strategic design approach.

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