What Is A Design Strategy And How To Create One?

Design Strategy

As a designer, you are probably aware that strategy plays a significant role in how we convey direction and intent in relation to our larger business objectives.

Your products, services, and experiences need to adapt or evolve over time while supporting the needs of your customers and business goals.

That’s where design strategy steps in.

Design strategy brings what is valuable to customers and what is profitable for businesses together. It guarantees that your team creates the materials your company requires to match its success with that of its clients, but more on that in a bit.

This article will take you through:

  • What a design strategy is,
  • Why it is important for your business,
  • What to keep in mind before creating a strategy,
  • How you can create a solid design strategy, and
  • How to implement it.

Let’s get into it.

What is a design strategy?

Stealing words from above, a design strategy is a central point that brings together what is valuable to customers and what is profitable for businesses.

It entails developing a set of guiding principles that align the company’s mission and vision with the way its goods and services are made. Additionally, it assists companies in determining their next course of action.

Design teams follow a strategy as they seek to achieve business goals through design. All through the design process, creative teams turn to this approach to make sure that each creative element or idea truly makes sense for the project.

A design strategy will usually include:

  • What success is (and who it is for), as well as how to assess it.
  • Details about the opportunity(s) (pain, gain, etc.) for a particular target audience.
  • A vision and a set of standards that represent an ideal future condition.
  • A description and analysis of the current proposition and the experience it has produced.

Importance of a design strategy

There are 6 key reasons why a design strategy is important for you to implement in your organization.

1. It’s cost-effective
Design strategy ensures that you clearly define who your target audience is and how you can create value for them based on their needs. 

When you have a product backed with solid research, you have the opportunity to continuously reiterate the cycle to improve it to its best form. Invariably, that means you don’t waste precious money or resources on something you don’t properly understand.

You cannot fix a product that shouldn’t have been built in the first place. And you’re definitely not getting what you spent on it back either.

By having a thorough understanding of your users’ needs, and how you’ll create value for them, you ensure that you’re on the right track at all times.

2. It gives your team a direction
Too many cooks spoil the broth, and that’s true here too. Too many scattered decisions from different individuals are going to wear down your team’s decision-making process.

When there is a clear goal in front of you, everyone in your team is bound to be in sync. You can be sure that the decisions they make with regard to the project will also be on par with the final goal.

A sound design strategy eliminates all the unimportant decision-making that surrounds your product, allowing your team to focus on more original problems.

3. It establishes a common language
Design processes do not involve just the design team. Realistically, it involves multiple different disciplines that include both design and non-design stakeholders such as CEOs, CFOs, research teams, and so on.

The adoption of a common language that allows your entire team or corporation to communicate and collaborate more effectively on a project is one of the most beneficial advantages that a design strategy can offer. 

It ensures that even the clients and stakeholders who lack design maturity can comprehend it fast and simply without further explanation.

4. It improves collaboration and builds better relationships
This ties in closely with the previous two points. When your team has a clear-cut direction with a common language that eliminates friction, it allows for a seamless collaborative process, building solid team relationships in the process.

In response to these efforts, the design process will be in closer alignment with your business goals, enabling strong, robust relationships as a result of the design strategy’s cohesive nature.

5. It helps you prioritize
As a design team, making your products user-oriented is great, but you need to be smart about it too.

You cannot give them everything they ask for because that costs more to build, takes a massive portion of your time and the benefits are marginal.

That’s not how you do it. A design strategy will help your team focus on the best balance of features – high reward, and low effort. 

This way, you end up creating the most value for a significant number of customers, becoming a more sustainable revenue generator too.

6. It helps create a roadmap for design and business development
A complete design strategy for your entire team not only shows how you will design a product but also provides a general design roadmap for how you and your team will develop and promote your products step by step.

Specifics to keep in mind before creating a design strategy.

Here are three aspects of your business you need to consider at any stage of the design strategy process:

  • Business goals

The needs of your company and your users will define your business goals or outcomes. 

Summarize the specifics of your plan for achieving these objectives. It should be precise, measurable, and tailored to each job. 

Specify the KPIs you’ll use to gauge your progress toward success. 

Bring in as many stakeholders involved in the project as possible to gather critical information and allow them to weigh in to set expectations.

A design sprint workshop is a great approach to help define the goals you want to achieve and helps you gain valuable insights into methods that contribute to your design strategy.

  • Brand identity

Given the massive competition and almost infinite choices for customers, standing out with a unique brand identity to connect with them emotionally is crucial.

You need to make yourself visible in the crowded marketplace, become memorable, and appeal to your customers to form long-lasting relationships.

A few things to keep in mind when setting up your brand identity are a memorable brand logo, a unique, recognizable visual language, and consistent imagery of colors and styles.

  • Market

Every good strategy, design or otherwise, requires understanding what currently works for your competitors. You must find a competitive advantage that sets you apart from the rest of the market by creating a design strategy that is difficult to replicate.

Here are a few important things to consider when researching your design strategy:

  • Your target audience and what they expect from you
  • What works and doesn’t for the competition
  • Design concepts you like and those you must avoid
  • Color psychology compared to your goals

When you have these factors covered in your research, you can create a relevant design strategy that focuses on and fulfills the needs of your target audience.

How to create a design strategy

When creating a design strategy, there are three questions that you ideally want to answer. They are:

  • A starting point – where are you today?
  • A destination – where do you want to be?
  • A plan of action – how do you get there?

These provide a context to support your general direction, as well as address specific customer challenges.

Let’s take a closer look at them.

1. Your starting point - Where are you today?
You need to consider the profitable goals in relation to your understanding of your customers. 

The objective here is to define the needs and goals of your customers, how much you currently offer them, and the efficacy of your customers’ experiences, i.e, demand, supply, and user experience.

You need to identify the opportunities that both add value to your customers and stand the best chance at driving your profitable goals considerably.

Here are a few methods you can use to make an informed decision:

  • Personas 

Aids in focusing your teams’ understanding of the target user or customer, taking into account their context, objectives, behaviors, activities, interactions, and pain points.

  • Competitor analysis

Gives your team an understanding of how customers interact with and use competing products, or how they use internal systems or workarounds to accomplish a similar goal.

  • Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD)

Gives your team information about the underlying reasons for a customer’s purchase and what they were primarily attempting to accomplish by using your products or services.

  • User journey maps

Enables your team to map out your typical customer’s journey as they use your product or service to accomplish a certain objective, including the actions they take, processes they follow, and the quality of their experience along the way.

2. Your destination - Where do you want to be?
With all the necessary information in place, it’s time for you and your designers to imagine a possible future. 

You know who you’re trying to serve, what they hope to achieve, and how their needs are currently met. It’s time for the problem-solving process to create the desired user experience. 

The idea here is to create an experience that is not only attractive but also grounded on your understanding of the issues you must resolve and the behaviors you need to modify or influence for a particular sector of customers. 

This creative process’s results are also put to use in order to encourage collaboration and develop a more empathetic expression of where you want to be.

The emphasis is to use outputs such as storyboards as tools to communicate with teams and stakeholders, promoting alignment, inspiring progress, and maintaining trajectory. 

A few methods you can use to provide direction are:

  • Vision 

High-level visual concepts and a series of guiding design principles can be a particularly effective method to illustrate how the experience might develop. 

Additionally, it offers a collection of characteristics that are fundamental to that experience and are likely to serve as a guide for future design choices.

  • Focus opportunities 

These could be expressed as need or problem statements that you feel are necessary to address as a part of your design approach. 

Each of these statements aims to frame the opportunity from the perspective of a particular persona, in a particular setting, and as they strive to solve one or more JTBD.

  • Storyboard 

With a focus on the overall experience rather than the details of a UI, storyboards are a useful visual communication tool for essential components of the larger experience from the perspective of the consumer. 

They frequently provide a level of depth around some key aspects of the larger user journey.

  • Ideal customer experience

These represent an ideal experience from the consumers’ perspective and a desired emotional response of a typical customer as they use a future version of your product or service.

3. Your plan of action - how do you get there?
You need to finish it off with a high-level strategy in the form of a clearly written document once a solid future direction has been established.

What are the steps that will get you to the desired experience, and how can you, as a designer, bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be?

You must present a strong case for change based on your understanding of your lucrative goals, the current issue, and the demands of your target audience.

Here are a few approaches you can use to determine your plan of action.

  • Analysis 

You must characterize the existing situation from a design viewpoint, taking into account the difference between the experience we currently offer and the experience we need to provide, as well as how we are positioned to close that difference, based on earlier insight and analysis.

  • Set guiding policies

Your guiding policies lay out some broad design guidelines that were created with the difficulties mentioned in your analysis.

Ideally, these will also make note of the important customer behaviors you’re trying to change and perhaps even represent the values developed along with your vision.

  • Create action items

These stand for the main design projects that describe how you’ll carry out each guiding principle.

Consider approximate metrics of success for each action that should line up with the consumer behaviors (outcomes) you uncovered through analysis.

  • Finalize design plans

The strategy’s last section should make reference to the succession of stages or important turning points that will lead to the intended experience.

Implement design strategies with Cubyts
Cubyts is a platform that puts management and strategies at its forefront. By bringing design to the center of product development, Cubyts enables businesses to adopt DesignOps and seamlessly integrate design workflows that aid in creating design strategies.

We also offer ready-to-use templates that you can use to kickstart your design strategy right off the bat!

Contact us to learn more about how Cubyts can help you with your design strategies.