Many founders start in a garage. Others in the ballroom. Then we're talking about Wanda Grimsgaard.
Strategic design development
I meet Wanda as she stands admiring the Memphis posters outside the entrance. She draws attention to Grid's Art Aid history and I proudly add some details on the once famous exhibition posters for Gallery F-15. Which has now enjoyed a renaissance.
We’re going to talk about The book.
Wanda Grimsgaard is Professor of Visual Communication at the University of South-Eastern Norway, with strategic development of design as her specialty. She has now finished writing a book that took three years to complete.
Design and Strategy presents a strategic design process in its entirety, including a variety of methods and models for insight, strategy development, idea development and problem solving.
The book can be used as a manual for planning and performing strategy and design projects. Or any other project.
Farm woman and designer
- I had my first design studio in the ballrom at the grand old farm “Sem gård” i Asker. I was married to the inheritor of the estate and design and tractor went hand in hand for a couple of decades. It started as Wanda Advertising and Illustration. Eventually the agency was called Wanda Design. We had several employees and many large important clients in the area, like Braathens SAFE, Ericsson and Sem Gjestegård
I started as a self-employed entrepreneur when I was 21, while I was studying at Oslo National Academy of the Arts, and at the same time I also worked for my father who had his own advertising agency.
I had actually planned to become a goldsmith, but after a year as a trainee at Dramsrud & Werner (- one of the hottest advertising agencies at the time), before I started studying at Oslo National Academy of the Arts, I saw the light and knew very well what I wanted to do. Advertising was seen as very commercial at the time, and I was probably seen as an outcast amongst all those who wanted to become artists.
I wasn't looking for a job after I graduated, I wanted to create my own business, coming from a family of founders.
Both Wanda and I got our start in the design industry in the 80s, so the conversation goes in there quite a while. And I thought this was going to be just a little about the book.
As a young agency manager, professional designer, member at the age of 19 - and later board member of what was first called Norske yrkestegnere [Norwegian Draughtsmen] and later Norske grafiske designere, NGD [Norwegian Graphic Designers] which in turn merged with Norsk illustratørforbund [Norwegian Association of Illustrators] and became Norwegian Illustrators and Graphic Designers, and is now called Grafill, Professor of Visual Communication and author, Wanda has an overall view of what has happened to the profession and the design industry over the last three decades. So to speak.
In the eighties and nineties, she also led a data group under the auspices of Grafill. The group organised large data seminars with the aim of spreading knowledge about the Macintosh and other digital tools, which for most people at the time were new and unknown.
Wanda is clearly curious about what's new - and eager to share knowledge.
In 1999, Wanda Design joined forces with Christensen/Lund. Together they started Brand House. Wanda Brand Identity was established in 2006.
Designing and teaching
For most of her career, in addition to business, Wanda has also taught and guest-lectured in various contexts at several educational institutions, and eventually decided that this was what she wanted to do, and has now been a professor since 2012. Teaching is close to her heart.
- How did you come to write the book?
- After a couple of years, and producing book shelves of compendiums for teaching at the university, a lot which were about strategy, I thought that - yep, I can write a book! and contacted a couple of publishers in 2014. Among others Cappelen Damm showed interest.
We were thinking of a two-year perspective, but it still took me three years, and I was rather absorbed in my own bubble at times.
- What's the big thing with strategy? I ask.
- Being a designer is a big responsibility. I saw early on that a lot of design work is not strategy-based. And I understand - with my design glasses on - that it can be difficult for designers to understand strategy.
Men det er altså meningsløst med design som ikke er målrettet. Med det mener jeg virksomhetens mål, som design faktisk skal bidra til å levere på. Boken Design og strategi tar leseren gjennom en total designprosess. Det handler om å sette ting i system. En strategisk designer er ikke kun en formgiver. Han eller hun er først og fremst en problemløser.
But it is thus meaningless with designs that are not goal oriented. By that I mean the company's goals, which design should actually help to deliver on. The book Design og strategi [Design and Strategy] takes the reader through a complete design process. It's about putting things into systems. A strategic designer is not just a designer. He or she is first and foremost a problem solver.
It is about understanding the problem and seeking to solve it. The definition of the problem must not be too broad. Not too narrow.
- Which part or topic in the book did you find the most challenging to write about?
- I guess it was coming up with What is strategy really?
- What was the most fun to write about then?
- Hmmm. I guess it was the same thing. What is strategy really? - I like uphill challenges.
I ask Wanda why the book is called Design and Strategy? And not the other way around.
- You'd understand it differently. The emphasis would be wrong. We're talking about the strategic development of design. Design activates strategy.
- What's happened to the industry over the last 30 years?
- In the past, many people might think that a designer was someone who sat at home at the kitchen counter drawing. And many did. It has been a huge development.
Today's strategic designers work closely with company management and owners on key issues of strategy, identity and problem-solving. Many companies have really begun to recognise the importance of design as a key tool for innovation and competitiveness.
- And what now? Your focus going forward?
- Now I feel like to do research at the intersection between strategy and design. I want to investigate areas where it is particularly easy to link strategy to design.
- Finally. Do you have any good tips for designers who want to work strategically?
– Det er avgjørende at du ikke mister strategien og problemstillingen av syne når du kommer til designarbeidet. Der glipper det lett.
- It is crucial that you do not lose sight of strategy and the problem to be addressed when you approach the visual design task. It's easy to forget that.
At designogstrategi.no you can read interviews of eight designers from different design professions. The interviews were part of Wanda's research on processes and methods to arrive at an overall process that can work across design disciplines.
Reference: Artikkelen er publisert 4.12.2018, i grid.no
Memphis posters are available for purchase her