What Is Design Strategy?
Design strategy applies the tactical thinking of a business strategy to the needs of the user in order to create the most effective product. This intersection between corporate strategy and design thinking achieves long-term goals through creative applications targeted at the end-user. Unlike strategic planning, which collects data to make a decision about how to approach a goal, strategic thinking involves an entire group that makes meaningful contributions at all levels in the business.
Strategic thinking in business and marketing
Strategy plays a big part in solving problems both within and apart from the professional world. It is how to get ahead of obstacles, how to move forward with applying methods intentionally, and, most importantly, it is often how important things get done. Strategic thinking in the workplace is moving toward goals that positively impact an audience or finances, using whatever tools or challenges along the way to most efficiently meet those goals.
The benefits of design strategy
Applying a strong design strategy does more than just persuasively engage a user. It creates efficient work processes that are both goal-oriented and cost-effective. To apply design strategy is to consider your starting point and your end goal and then plot exactly how to get there.
Design strategy factors for businesses to consider:
At this stage, design thinking moves to the forefront to help identify the needs of both the user and the client. Design strategy requires a business to consider the following factors to create a high-performing user experience:
- Existing problems and challenges
- Current success and benefits that they can leverage
- Unmet client or user needs
- Changing market/customer behaviors and attitudes
- Emerging ideas and trends
- Opportunities to differentiate from competitors
An effective strategy is simple and understandable. When a design strategy is easily communicated throughout a team or an organization, every employee can use it as a reference point.
5 steps to a design strategy
If your team is getting ready to adopt strategic design thinking into the workflow, begin by considering how it’s done. The following steps outline the process of creating and executing a design strategy from start to finish:
1. See the big picture
Look at the whole project and identify measurable goals. Analyze challenges and opportunities from the perspective of the business and the user.
2. Find your competitive edge
Determine where your goals should place you in the competitive market. This can include market trends, business objectives, and other key factors you may have gathered while assessing your business objectives.
3. Set quantifiable goals
This is when you’ll begin to form a strategy to determine how the design of the project will work to meet the identified challenges and opportunities. Here you can establish indicators commonly used in strategic planning
4. Implement and evaluate
As your plan becomes more defined, you and your team will delegate responsibilities and establish best practices to ensure a successful outcome. You will continue to reassess your needs and goals as you work to attain them. Design strategy thrives when employees can be flexible with their ideas.
5. Adjust over time
As your product continues to grow, check to see that it’s still meeting the needs of its environment and optimally serving the user.
Examples of design thinking
Ultimately, design thinking combines being shrewd and methodical about your business with the creative innovation it takes to generate a business-growing experience, all in the name of achieving goals. Here are a few examples of how a company could use design strategy:
Example 1: A taxi service is using a telephone dispatch system to send drivers in company-owned cars to customers in need of transportation. But customers frequently complain about limited service. The in-house web developer comments that no one uses the phone anymore; perhaps they should make an app to streamline processes in a way that customers understand.
After meetings with marketing, finance, and designers, the company comes up with a plan to create an app to streamline the ride-obtaining process. They also realized that if they design the means to hire independent contractors in their own cars who also work through the app, they can continue to grow their fleet of drivers that will in turn grow their business without the costs it would take to hire a taxi fleet or purchase and modify new cars that uphold the taxi brand.
Example 2: A client complains that their website is outdated and they’d like a new look. Rather than just send the new assignment to the design team and begin a process of aesthetic trial and error until the client is pleased, design thinking can be applied to figure out what the client is really missing and how it can be provided through improvements to their website that have actual payoffs for their business as opposed to just making aesthetic adjustments to meet trends.
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