Design Strategy is tough to explain in a few words. Here’s why:
- It’s not specific to a sector or industry
- It’s not specific to an organisational area like ‘HR’ or ‘Communications’ or ‘Logistics’
- The solutions it comes up with are always unique, never-to-be-repeated, and tailored to the situation
Which tells you a bit about what Design Strategy isn’t. But it still doesn’t tell you what it is. Here’s a quick breakdown.
It’s pretty common for those who aren’t in the design industry to just assume that ‘design’ means ‘figuring out what things should look like’. Interior designers make rooms pretty, right? And graphic designers make documents pretty, right? (NB to our interior designer and graphic designer friends – chill, we’re just being ironic).
Design is really much deeper than that; it is concerned with identifying and defining opportunities for better outcomes and positive change, then seeking to deliver those outcomes. It employs tools, idiosyncratic mindsets, and processes that are used to achieve this in whatever context it is used. It also tries to account for the bigger, complex picture that organisations occupy in order to give the most viable, multi-faceted, and comprehensive answers. It is about designing the best solutions.
Strategy has become a bit of a buzzword in the biz world – it’s regularly invoked, but often incorrectly. According to Forbes ‘the biggest problem with the way organisations think about strategy is they confuse strategy with plans’. This may because if you were to Google ‘strategy’, you’d be told it is ‘a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim’. Strategy in business often involves using hard data (stats, graphs, reports) to get insights and make decisions about the company rather than delving deeper into the more emotional side. While Forbes puts it down to ‘a framework for making decisions about how you will play the game of business,’ very different from a simple plan.
In Design Strategy, we’re using design tools, mindsets, and processes to develop a strategic framework that will give us a clear path for success, and keep us on it. Importantly, in developing that framework, Design Strategists seek to look both ‘at’ as well as ‘beyond’ the hard data. Behind the black-and-white numbers of an organisation are the people, processes, and structures that drive those numbers. By delving into this grey area, we can find hidden levers of change that can produce major competitive benefits and future-proofed outcomes. Working with numerous stakeholders, co-designing, and facilitating workshops is all in a day’s work for design strategists; they can confidently navigate the analytical along with the intuitive.
So Strategy, or Design Strategy?
If you’re happy to assume that the essence of a company can be reduced to numbers, and therefore data and stats are the key to driving success, then Strategy will suit you fine. But if you understand that a great company isn’t just great because it has that stuff under control, and believe it also depends on having an understanding of the customer, providing for its employees, and having the right procedures, then head right this way. Design Strategy is the ticket for you.