What is Strategic Design?

Recently Raph, from the very excellent Design Droplets blog, wanted to know how I would define Strategic Design.

I never had to consciously apply strategic design and thinking methodologies as it was something that I just did through my daily design activities. It was, in a way, second nature to me and a somewhat automatic response when I have to deal with problems. So I have to admit when I was asked this question I was momentary stumped.

As Design Sojourn’s focus is all about “Mastering the Business of Strategic Industrial Design”, I thought I might take a stab and define it, with help from you of course! So here we go.

Let’s start by looking at the definition of “Strategic”. Which is “Of or relating to Strategy”.

strat·e·gy (str?t’?-j?)
n. pl. strat·e·gies

a. The science and art of using all the forces of a nation to execute approved plans as effectively as possible during peace or war.
b. The science and art of military command as applied to the overall planning and conduct of large-scale combat operations.

2. A plan of action resulting from strategy or intended to accomplish a specific goal.
3. The art or skill of using stratagems in endeavors such as politics and business.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

So this definition implies that when you become “strategic”, there is a plan, a mission or a goal behind what you do. If we now combine it with Design, I would extrapolate that “Strategic Design” is about Design (with a capital D) that has plan or specific goals behind the reason for its existence.

I’m not trying to be philosophical here, but lets pause for a moment and think about what I said for a bit? Does it start to make sense?

Now, I like to expand this definition by massaging the keywords and terminology a little. Unfortunately it is not close to being a perfect definition. I think Strategic Design is about a process that takes a very holistic and multi-disciplinary approach to achieving design solutions. In other words, Strategic Design captures all aspects of a product’s requirements (consumer needs, marketing and business plans, design language, brand identity etc.) and then uses these requirements to influence the final design solution.

Phew, that took a few rounds of editing and rewording. So now it is time for you to have your say, please let me know how you would define Strategic Design?

. . .

Brian Ling (Design Sojourn)

Brian is a multidisciplinary Design Leader with more than 18 years of experience leading strategic design programs that drives successful Brands and Fortune 500 businesses such as GE, Philips, Nakamichi, Flextronics, Ericsson, Hannspree, and HP. His passion is in helping organisations leverage on Design Driven Innovation to make people’s lives better.

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  • csven

    .  7 years ago

    “Design (with a capital D)”

    I’ve been seeing this more and more lately. Seems as if this is catching on. Cool. Except…

    One thing that especially caught me in the above entry was your use of “design” as an adjective: “design solutions”. I think arnomat essentially articulates what I was thinking by appearing to suggest it’s redundant. A bit like “design thinking”.

    In fact, you use “design” as an adjective frequently. For example, in your response to lngo, you say:

    “Strategic Design methodology can be used by any design discipline to create design solutions in any medium, tangible or intangible.”

    That’s a lot of “design” in one sentence. I’d have said: “A strategic methodology can be used by any discipline to create solutions in any medium, tangible or intangible. That’s what Design (with a capital “D”) is.”


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