Really fun to launch the book Design and Strategy among students, designers and colleagues in Grafills Hus and at The University of South-Eastern Norway. At the launches, I spoke about my book Design and Strategy, about what is timeless and what is new, and a little bit else.
Design and Strategy (2023) is an English version of the Norwegian edition Design og strategi (2018). The book presents a process that can be used for strategic development of design. The process can be used in a design project or any project. The process is timeless and does not expire. In contrast, the knowledge, methods and models we use in the process can be affected by time and trends, new technology, changes and needs in society, business and the environment. Therefore, I have made a number of updates and included new material in the English edition.
The core of the book is strategic development of design. Strategic development of design means that the design process is anchored in the company's goals and strategy. The solution must help the business achieve its goals.
The tip of the iceberg
I have many years experiences from the design industry, developing identities for companies, products or services. This is what the client envisions when asking the designer to develop a new logo. And it should be cheap.
Many people think of design only as shape and colour. Which is illustrated here as the tip of the iceberg. The logo is what you see. However, most people don't think about the rigorous process behind it. Building a strong identity requires a thorough process and anchoring in the company's goals and strategy. That is needed to build associations. Such associations can be worth millions.
What is timeless?
What is timeless is the process. What is more in motion is the knowledge, methods and models we use in the process.
The process consists of 6 phases. Each phase is divided into nine levels. In addition, there are up to two sub-levels. The process is explained linearly, but also takes place circularly. You go back and forth between the phases. I will give a brief presentation of the 6 phases based on a design project. This means that the designer works on assignment for a business.
Initiation is the first phase. It's about ensuring a good start to the project. Here you lay the foundations for a good collaborative climate, and good project management.
For the company, this means writing a project brief and choosing a designer with the right qualifications. For the designer, it's about making a good pitch and showing oneself qualified. For both, it is about gaining a common understanding of the task to be solved. The designer and the company agree on a price and progress plan, as well as a contract that secures the rights of both parties. Level of ambition is always an important question. A high level of ambition means, for example, more rounds, more sketches, more time, and a higher price.
Phase 1 Initiation:
- Initial preparations
- Project brief
- Initial meeting
- Initial workshop
- Project description
- Progress schedule
- Price quotation
- Team collaboration
Insight is the second phase. Here, you gather necessary insight to clarify which problem or need the task will help solve. It is about clarifying the today's situation by conducting a situational analysis.
You must know the current situation to be able to set your goals and choose a strategy. The designer is always looking for what problem is to be solved. If, for example, the designer is commissioned by the company to develop a new website, a natural question will be: Why do you need a new website? What is the problem? Are sales declining, has the competition increased, is the website outdated, what about the logo? And what about the strategy, is it outdated too? So, you start by examining the company's situation, doing research, such as surveys, interviews, observations and analysis, or by examining existing data. This way you learn what factors affecting the company, for example internal factors, such as financial ability, competitive advantage, and organizational culture, and external factors in the market and surroundings, such as the competitive situation, trends, environmental challenges, politics and ongoing conflicts etc which might affect the company. You can also gain insight through design, by exploration, experimentation, and iteration in the design process.
Phase 2 – Research:
- Understanding the company
- Situational study
- Problem statement
- Method selection
- Research process
- Testing and measuring
Strategy is the third phase. It is about anchoring of the project in the company’s goals and strategy, as well as setting goals and creating a plan for your project. You need to clarify what the company's goals and strategy are, to ensure that your project helps the company achieve its goals. It involves using strategy as a management tool for the design process. It may be necessary to develop strategy in a project. The designer can, for example, contribute to develop brand strategy, communication strategy and design strategy. Strategy is, in the same way as design, a creative work. There is no one answer in the field of strategy, nor in design. While goals are about what we want or where we want to be, strategy is about how we will get there. 'Strategy' is the plan.
Phase 3 Strategy:
- Strategy development
- Overall strategy
- Goals and subgoals
- Business strategy
- Business model
- Market strategy,
- Brand strategy
- Communication strategy
- Design strategy
Design is the fourth of six phases. It is about developing design solutions based on insight, goals and strategy from the preceding phases. In this phase, you choose among different idea processes and develop solutions to your problem statement, like visual designs and identity, customer journeys, webdesign, packaging, magazines, campaigns, and so on. Here you work with design methodology, sketching, colors, shapes, typography, composition. You iterate, which means that you go through many rounds of design development, test along the way, evaluate and learn, and keep going until you have the desired result.
Phase 4 Design:
- Design brief
- Design methodology
- Concept development
- Design development
- Design elements,
- Surface and format
- Identity development
Production is the fifth of six phases. It is about implementing and realizing the solution. It may involve producing products mechanically, manually or digitally. It could be producing packaging for a product. building a trade fair stand, printing a brochure, or programming an app or a website. Production is something the designer often leaves to subcontractors, but production planning, and quality assurance are the designer's responsibility.
Phase 5 Production:
- Material selection
- Paper and cartonboard
- Colour management
- Production for digital media
- Production for printed media
- Installations and constructions
- Quality assurance
Management is the sixth and last of all phases in a strategic design process. It is about how the business can administer, control and operate the assets created through a design project. Design manuals are necessary to ensure correct and consistent use of the design, in order for example to build a brand. Here we also talk about managing or protecting values. Design assets must be legally protected to avoid plagiarism. In addition, a brand is something that must be managed and developed in the long term, so that it retains its relevance and value. This phase is also write about sustainability management, which is a responsibility for both the company and the designer. This means, among other things, focusing on long-term rather than short-term gains.
Phase 6 Management:
- Intangible assets
- Legal protection
- Design management
- Design effect
- Design manual
- Design templates
- Operations manual
- Further development
- Sustainable management
What is new?
As mentioned, the process itself is more timeless, while what we fill it with in terms of models and methods can be influenced by new technology, trends and needs. Here I have included some samples from new material in the book.
UX research UX designers can benefit from the book, not only to think about user experience, but also to anchor it in the company's overall goals and strategy. The figure shows a framework that can be used within a typical web or product development process. Each dimension provides a way to distinguish between studies - in terms of the questions they answer - and the purposes for which they are best suited.
Digital strategi The figure shows an example of some of the most important elements, skills, needs and actions needed to develop a digital marketing strategy.
The 7 wicked An assignment is often based on a need or a problem. We designers are first and foremost problem solvers. Some problems are so-called wicked problems. These are large complex problems that are demanding, if not impossible to solve.
Systems thinking Solving complex problems requires a systematic approach. Systemic design integrates systems thinking, people-centered design, design-led research, and advanced design methodology to tackle complex design challenges.
Innovation for marketing impact As an essence, innovation can be defined as creating something new - which creates value. There are a variety of innovation approaches, and some provide more value than others.
Sustainable business model The figure shows an example of a sustainable business model, with a sustainable value proposition as the core.
Material life cycle This is a newer model, which shows the most important stages in a material's life cycle.
Distinctive brand assets Figuren viser eksempel på typiske distinctive brand assets (eller distinktive merkemarkører som man kan kalle det på norsk). Som betyr at man gjenkjenner merket ved bare å se en del av det visuelle elementet eller symbolet.
The distinctive asset grid By measuring how visual distinctive assets score on uniqueness and familiarity, you can create a strategy for how the brand should be developed further.
Grimsgaard, W. (2023). Design and Strategy. A Step-by-Step Guide. Routledge, Oxon/NY. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003223955
Grimsgaard, W. (2018). Design og strategi. Prosesser og metoder for strategisk utvikling av design. Cappelen Damm Akademisk, Oslo.
Design and Strategy on Amazon.com
Design and Strategy on Amazon.co.uk
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Ottinger, R. (2021). Create Sustainable Success with the 4 Types of Innovation. Fresh Consulting. https://www.freshconsulting.com/ insights/blog/the-4-types-of-innovation/
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Sarkar, C., & Kotler, P. (2021). The Wicked 7. Can we solve the world’s most urgent problems?
Also read: Launching Design and Strategy