Strategy and Design – A Symbiotic Relationship

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  • January 25, 2008

When was the last time you involved a designer in a business strategy meeting or discussion?

If you laughed at that question, you may rethink your response at the end of this article.

Strategy has a direct impact on design. By that I do not mean just web strategy or marketing strategy. If your business strategy is to reach the high end consumers in your market, the design of every piece of marketing collateral will have a direct impact on your ability to convert those consumers into customers. That may seem like a very simple example, so let me give you another one.

We met recently with a client to discuss a redesign and redevelopment of their current website. The one thing we always strive to do is just discuss the client’s business in general terms. During this meeting we learned a critical piece of information that will directly impact the design of their new website. Due to urban development, their physical storefront will probably be eliminated in the next 3 years. Due to this one fact they are having to completely shift their business strategy of attracting, keeping and selling to their customers. They will not be able to direct people to this storefront through advertising for much longer. Thankfully they have the foresight to understand the value of the web and how to shift their business strategy to selling on the web.

If we had not been involved in that meeting our redesign and development would have completely missed the target and would not have served the client’s business strategy. The client had even gone through the work of creating a requirements document and wanted us to wrap our design around that document. However, their document put little emphasis on the ecommerce and lead generation portion of the project. We quickly were able to toss the requirements document out the window. It didn’t fit with the strategy therefore the design wouldn’t fit the strategy and the client would have held it against us.

As designers you sometimes have to force yourself into these strategy conversations because most business execs still do not understand the impact design has or they underestimate its value, often times just handing the designer a proposal or requirements document and telling them to make it look good.

In order for design to advance and designers to be valued and accountable they must be given the opportunity to expand their business acumen. One way you can do that is to involve them in your strategy sessions.

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