When beginning your next marketing project, do you ever think of the “design strategy?” This is an industry term among graphic designers usually spoken when we first begin the process of gathering information about a specific project or campaign.
When we speak of a strategy, it refers to putting together a plan to achieve an objective or goal. This strategy can help differentiate our clients from their competition.
So what is design strategy? Design strategy refers to an integrated planning process that examines the relationships between how design and business may complement one another. Simply put, the goal is to merge the business objective with creative solutions that moves beyond just aesthetics. It could be described as inventing a language to express your client’s philosophy, products or services more clearly.
In a recent article in HOW magazine, design strategy is described as the process of learning and discovery; acquiring a deep understanding of the client’s industry, competitors, goals and opportunities that allow designers to formulate an executable strategy. The target is to determine what is appropriate, obtainable and makes sense. Start by asking yourself… what are we trying to accomplish?
Don’t confuse design strategy with a creative brief. Design strategy is how we recommend approaching a project while a creative brief frames the goals and objectives. Both are important.
So what components go into a design strategy? Below is a list from the HOW article written by Terry Lee Stone.
Any design strategy should address the following:
- Existing problems and ongoing challenges
- Current benefits and successes to be leveraged
- Unmet client/customer needs
- Changing client/customer behaviors and attitudes
- Emerging ideas and trends
- Opportunities to differentiate
Some of the steps to take for performing a design strategy include:
- REVIEW – What are the design’s measurable goals and objectives?
- SCAN – What internal and external factors impact the design?
- FORM – How will the design work to meet these challenges and opportunities?
- IMPLEMENT – What exactly will we do? Who exactly will do it? How will it be done?
- EVALUATE – How well does the design achieve its goals and objectives?
- MAINTAIN – Do we need adjustments or do we keep the design as it is?
A design strategy affects every aspect from advertising & promotions to employees to product design and encompass all media.
A good and effective strategy is simple and understandable, even when the objective is not. Successful design strategy is communicated in easy to comprehend terms that the intended audience will understand. You’ll want to use all the tools at your disposal to get the strategic value across.
So that brings us to the final question… will a design strategy result in a better creative solution? The answer, if the design process is well thought out and executed, then it will become obvious on whether or not the strategy was a success. As designers, our objective is clear, we need to absorb all the information at hand from our clients, have a complete understanding of the objective and goal and be able to bridge the gap between creative solution thinking and the intended purpose of the business strategy. The result: a better and custom defined design that communicates a clear message to the specific audience we want to reach.