What is a design strategy, and how to improve it? How do you apply strategic thinking to a design strategy?
We will answer all these valid questions. As creatives, we need to understand the basics of design strategy to create better work for our clients and ourselves.
Even if you have a clear design idea of what you want to create, a design strategy will ensure that your team starts and ends each project correctly. No matter what type of design project you’re working on, understanding and using design strategy is essential for success.
In this blog post, we will define design strategy, explore the different types and components of design strategy, and show you how to create a design strategy for your next project. Let’s get right into it!
What is design strategy and why do you need it?
Design strategy defined
Design strategy is the process of planning and guiding a design project from beginning to end. It involves developing a clear vision, setting goals, outlining the steps needed to reach them, and putting that plan into action.
A good strategy will consider the client’s needs, the project’s constraints, and the available resources. It should also be responsive to changes in the environment and evolving trends.
Design strategy combines profitability, business strategy, and meeting user needs. It is a business strategy in disguise that helps companies create the best products for the target audience and successfully promote their brands.
A design strategy guides how creative teams work to meet business goals through design. Creative teams can always refer to the strategy during the design process, ensuring that each creative concept or asset makes sense for the project and business in general.
When you have a documented strategy prepared, you avoid wasting your time and get a clear starting point with all the goals, context, and functions you want to achieve.
Your design strategy is as much important as your business or marketing strategy. This is why you shouldn’t start any major design project without a proper strategy, whether a landing page, an ad, or a sales presentation.
Clients often want fresh, clean, and modern designs. A good strategy means having a plan that outlines the client’s wishes, your overall design goals, and how you will achieve them. It should be tailored to your specific project and audience and include creative and strategic thinking.
A well-defined design strategy can help you succeed with your next design project.
What are the benefits of design strategy?
There are many benefits to having a design strategy in place.
Some of the key benefits include:
- Clarifying Direction: A good design strategy will help clarify your project’s direction and provide a framework for making design decisions.
- Defining Goals: A design strategy can help to define specific goals for your project and provide a roadmap for achieving them.
- Facilitating Collaboration: By documenting your strategy, you create a shared understanding among team members and stakeholders. This can help to promote better collaboration and avoid confusion.
- Enhancing Efficiency: A well-defined strategy can help to streamline the design process and make it more efficient.
- Enhancing Quality: A strong design strategy will help ensure that your final product is high quality and meets all specified requirements.
How to improve your design strategy
There are a few things you can do to improve your design strategy.
First, make sure you have a clear understanding of your goal. What are you trying to achieve with your design? Once you have a clear goal, you can start developing a strategy to help you achieve it.
Second, ensure you’re familiar with available tools and techniques. There’s no point in devising a strategy if you don’t have the tools to implement it. Learn as much as possible about the design process and experiment with different methods until you find what works best for you.
Finally, always be open to feedback and critique. Ask for feedback from your team or people with a lot of design experience. Take their feedback and use it to improve your strategy.
How to create an effective design strategy that aligns with your business goals in 5 steps
The next time you start working on a big design project, give yourself enough time to create a documented comprehensive strategy that helps provide a roadmap for each project phase.
01. Set project business goals
Without clearly set goals, your team will design in the dark, which you surely want to avoid.
Your design strategy should achieve clear, measurable, and specific business outcomes defined by your company’s needs and its users or customers. These goals should be detailed business growth objectives such as:
- Increasing top-line revenue by 50% in 12 months.
- Growing the social media channels by 200%.
- Increasing blog conversions by 6% in the next quarter.
02. Research the market
What to research? Every good strategy requires extensive research. Understanding what your competitors are doing is a great starting point.
Start with researching the following areas that will help you create a relevant design:
- Research your target audience
- Analyze the competition
- Color psychology
- Design concepts that inspire you
- Design concepts that you dislike
Research your target audience
Understanding your target audience is key to creating an effective design strategy. You need to know who your customers are, what they want, and what they’re looking for. This information will help you create designs that speak to them and resonate with them.
Analyze the competition
What is working for the competition? When you’re looking to create a successful design strategy, it’s important to consider what your competition is doing and what’s been successful for them. This will help you understand what works and what doesn’t in your industry and give you some ideas for your own strategy.
Online competition has given consumers infinite options and choices. For example, there are more than a few food delivery apps, and the number is growing. Quite overwhelming. So the question is, which one is better and which one to use?
Find a competitive edge in your design strategy that separates you from the competition, something unique and unreplicated. Turn your competitors’ weaknesses into your strengths.
Reanalyze your brand colors. For example, warm colors (red, orange, yellow) evoke emotions of warmth and comfort, passion, and energy to feelings of anger and hostility. Cold colors (blue, purple, green, and cyan color) evoke feelings of peace and indifference.
03. Understand your brand identity
After reviewing your design research, business goals, place within market trends, and competitors, you can finally identify a strategy that sets your brand apart from the competition. That’s your brand identity.
It’s important to have a good understanding of your brand and what you stand for. This will help you create designs that stay true to your brand and convey your message effectively.
Brands with a strong identity stand out from the crowded marketplace. They look for ways to connect emotionally with customers, become recognizable and form long-term relationships.
When applying strategic thinking to design strategy, it’s important to keep these things in mind. By doing so, you’ll be able to create a well-informed and effective strategy.
04. Create a project brief
The design brief outlines everything from project objectives and milestones to the intended audience and the expectations for both parties while developing trust and understanding between you and the designers.
A solid design brief will not only ensure that you are happy with the result, but it will also save a designer a lot of time. And sanity. It sets expectations for both parties before the project begins and keeps both sides accountable to deadlines.
05. Design and test
The first version of your design strategy might not be the final version, and that’s fine. You never know if your strategy works until you test it.
After the first four steps, you need to deploy your strategy, have your team stick to it, and get feedback on the process.
Even if you created a perfect strategy, regularly reviewing designer feedback about the process will ensure everyone is aligned.
How to become a more strategic-thinking designer?
Except for constantly improving yourself, learning new things, seeking new insights, making decisions, and taking responsibility, there are a few behaviors you can implement immediately to become a strategic-thinking designer tomorrow.
Scan the environment and learn to anticipate.
How to improve anticipation?
- Talk to users to understand their needs and challenges.
- Conduct market research and analyze competing products and fast-growing rivals.
- Imagine different scenarios and prepare for the unexpected.
- Identify users you’ve lost and try to figure out why.
- Attend conferences and events to widen your perspective.
Challenge yourself and others to encourage divergent points of view.
How to improve my ability to challenge?
- Focus on the root causes of a problem.
- Collect input from people not directly affected by design decisions which may have a good perspective on the repercussions.
- List assumptions about your product.
An example of strategic thinking in design
When you think of strategic thinking, what comes to mind? Probably a business or corporate setting, with executives mapping out a plan to gain market share or increase profits. But strategic thinking is not just for the boardroom – it can be applied in any field, including design.
When creating a landing page design strategy, everything starts with the client’s input, product and project manager, sales, and content teams. They all work together on a brief detailing the features, benefits, and product/service advantages the landing page needs to include.
Then the content team writes the copy and sends it to the design team, which creates the visual assets on the page and the overall page design and provides the best customer experience.
The design strategy for landing pages should include:
- The target audience of the page (buyer personas, demographics, and use cases)
- Setting page goals (generating web traffic for ad revenue, buying a product, booking a demo, getting free templates)
- Researching competitive industry pages
- Defining the assets or branding guidelines
- Writing copy for the landing page
- Setting the overall project deadline
This is just one example of how strategic thinking can be used in design projects. It’s a process that considers all the factors involved in a project, from the initial planning stages to the finished product. Applying strategic thinking to your strategy can help you create a plan tailored specifically to your project and target market.
Create a design strategy before you start
So you have a design project that you want to work on but are unsure where to start. Or maybe you’ve been working on a project for a while, but it’s not going as well as you’d like. Either way, it might be time to take a step back and think about your strategy.
At its core, design strategy is the process of deciding how to best achieve your goals for a design project. It involves setting priorities, making trade-offs, and planning the steps needed to achieve your objectives.
There is no one “right” way to create a design strategy. However, there are some general steps that you can follow to get started:
- Define your goals for the project
- Assess your resources and constraints
- Develop a plan for achieving your goals
- Execute the plan and track results
A great design strategy is a key to success in today’s world. By understanding the basics of your strategy and how to apply strategic thinking to your designs, you can create a powerful foundation for your next project.
Remember that every design is different, and you may need to adapt your strategy accordingly. But with the right approach, you can create a design strategy to help you achieve your goals and reach your target audience. Or you can reach out to us and make your business easier! Let us show you all the possibilities and differences great design can make!