What Is a Design Strategy? (With Benefits and Examples)

Updated June 26, 2023

Having an effective strategy is essential to achieving your goals and plans. If you're part of a design team or in a related role, consider learning the strategy to apply throughout a design process. Understanding design strategies and using them effectively can help you meet business objectives and complete projects successfully. In this article, we define design strategy, explore the differences between design and strategic thinking, discuss the benefits of using design strategies in business, describe how to develop one, and share relevant examples.

What is a design strategy?

A design strategy is a method that applies the principles of design thinking and business strategy structure to meet user needs and ultimately grow a business. It combines profitability and corporate strategy to create effective products that can satisfy consumers. Organizations use corporate strategy to identify, plan, and achieve long-term goals. This strategy guides design and creative teams throughout a design process to ensure the offering created is appropriate for the project and attains business goals.

Implementing a strategy for design also requires strategic thinking. Designers that develop a strategic thinking approach to projects can better understand the business profitability goals and user objectives. This knowledge can help provide meaningful design solutions.

Related: Four Strategy Types (With Benefits and How to Create a Plan)

Design vs. strategic thinking

Strategic thinking is a component of design thinking. Design thinking encompasses the process of solving problems with a solution-based approach by engaging users. It focuses on addressing challenges in a way that inspires thinking by doing. In contrast, strategic thinking involves the process of a design team finding and contributing to activities to promote the organization's success. It focuses on understanding the end goal or outcome of a project before taking action.

While design thinking starts with customers' needs and testing possible solutions, strategic thinking is the thought process for identifying project issues and inspiring design solutions to solve them.

Related: What Is Strategy Execution? (Benefits and How to Execute It)

Related: What Is a Design Strategist? (Duties, Requirements, and Skills)

What to consider when developing design strategies

Effective strategies are often simple and easy to understand. When all teams in an organization understand the strategy, every employee can refer to it to ensure an efficient design process. Professionals consider it good practice for businesses to review certain factors before implementing a strategy. To create a product with a great user experience, consider the following factors:

  • Opportunities to secure a market position

  • Recent trends and ideas

  • Changing market structure

  • Present consumer trends

  • Unmet user needs or wants

  • Current market competition

  • Existing organizational challenges

Benefits of using design strategies in business

Applying effective design strategies in businesses facilitates increased user engagement. It also fosters efficient design processes that are cost-effective and aid business growth. Here are more benefits of using design strategies in a business:

Increases product sales

Design strategies can help increase the sales of your products or services, adding value to a business. Customers are often likelier to purchase better-valued offerings that can provide appealing aesthetics, superb usability, and increased functionality. An effective strategy that uniquely satisfies consumers' wants and needs can encourage them to patronize a business instead of competitors.

Improves market position

Using this strategy can improve a company's mode of operations to manage projects efficiently. It enables you to develop a method you can use to complete additional projects successfully and get more recommendations. When the public recognizes the brand as a reliable company that creates pleasing offerings, it helps secure a position in the market, improving brand recognition and reputation.

Fosters collaboration

Having a strategy fosters collaboration by helping an entire team aim for a common goal. The strategy allows stakeholders and relevant employees to communicate the offering's features and functions effectively. This helps ensure the design team, stakeholders, and other company officials work toward a shared purpose. Because this strategy connects a design to the desired outcome, it's easier to accomplish set business goals.

Related: Collaboration Skills: Definition and Examples

Enhances business efficiency

A strategic mindset lets a team align the product details with customer needs to reduce the number of revisions to make when executing the project. It helps ensure the team focuses all efforts and resources on creating compelling designs. It also saves time by ensuring teams perform and prioritize tasks accurately, enhancing business efficiency. Using the strategy also helps save costs by planning and mobilizing resources efficiently.

Increases customer satisfaction

Using an effective strategy to create consumer offerings helps improve customer satisfaction and experience. Satisfied clients often engage more and remain loyal to businesses, improving customer engagement and retention. They may also refer the product to their friends, family, or colleagues, aiding the company's marketing efforts.

How to develop a design strategy

You can follow these steps to develop and implement an effective strategy for your next design project:

1. Plan the project

You can assess the entire project and identify its goals. Gather sufficient information and resources and consult with stakeholders to ensure you understand the project's fundamental objectives. These details can help prepare the team and make it easier to complete tasks efficiently. Consider analyzing the potential opportunities and challenges from both the business and users' perspectives.

Related: What Is a Project Management Plan? With Tips and Examples

2. Discover your competitive edge

After defining the project goals, you can discover your competitive advantage. You can assess market trends and consumer analysis to see how your offering can be better than other competitors in the market. You can also explore current winning strategies that work for other competitors and see if you can incorporate them into your design. Determine where the product outcome can place you in your competitive market or industry. To find a competitive edge in your strategy, try looking for a style or concept that defines the brand that competitors can't replicate.

3. Set actionable goals

Next, you can begin to form the strategy that defines how the intended design project can solve the identified challenges. Consider setting quantifiable goals to enable you to compare the expected project outcome against the actual results and measure the project's efficiency. For example, you can set a goal to increase business revenue by 30% in six months after project implementation. Consider using key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure project specifics for a detailed comparison.

Related: How to Define and Measure a Key Performance Indicator

4. Evaluate and implement your plans

Next, you can delegate tasks and responsibilities accordingly and establish the best practices to ensure the outcome is successful. Consider evaluating the strategy thoroughly to ensure it directly addresses users' needs and meets profitability goals. You can also ask for team members' opinions and feedback to generate practical ideas for the product. Consider creating a design brief that can guide the team through the implementation. A functional design brief typically contains the following essential details:

  • Project scope

  • Available assets

  • Project deliverables

  • Timeframe or designated due dates

  • Project deadline

  • Stakeholders

  • Target audience

5. Monitor its performance

Continue monitoring the product's performance as it grows. You can check whether it functions as intended and optimally serves end-users. You can also make adjustments or changes to ensure the strategy is the most effective for successful project completion.

Examples of design thinking

You can review the following examples to understand how a business can use design thinking to develop an effective strategy:

Example for a tech company

This example shows how a tech company applies design thinking to solve a client's complaints:

Techrol Company Ltd. is a tech company that specializes in developing websites for clients. A client complains about the outdated version of their website and requests a new look. Rather than sending the assignment to the design team to start a new trial and error process until they satisfy the client, the company can apply design thinking. Techrol uses design thinking to determine the client's exact needs, and they can cater to them by improving the website.

The design solution Techrol creates can effectively satisfy the client's demands and generate more profits for the business, increasing client satisfaction rather than just making aesthetic adjustments to meet trends.

Example for a taxi service

This example demonstrates how a taxi service uses design thinking to resolve customers' complaints:

Taxiway is a taxi service company that uses a telephone dispatch system to send drivers in company-owned cars to customers who need transportation. Customers often complain of limited service. The web developer uses design thinking to develop a solution. They comment that customers don't use the phone line anymore and suggest developing an app that can streamline processes in an easy-to-understand manner for customers.

After several meetings with design, marketing, and finance teams, the company decides to create the app to simplify the ride-obtaining process. They also realize they can design the app to accommodate other independent contractors with their personal cars during the design thinking process. This can help strategically increase the number of drivers available, effectively addressing customers' complaints and fostering business growth. The design solution also saves the company costs of hiring more taxis or purchasing new cars to improve brand recognition.


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