Design strategy is a discipline which helps firms determine what to make and do, why do it and how to innovate contextually, both immediately and over the long-term. This process involves strategic design, the interplay between design and business strategy.
While not always required, design strategy often uses qualitative and ethnographic methods to help ground the results and mitigate the risk of any course of action. The approach has proved useful for companies in a variety of strategic scenarios.
Design strategy can play a role in helping to resolve the following common problems:
- Promoting the adoption of a technology (Example: Tesla deleting the traditional automotive grille on its new Model 3 and removing the grille in a facelift of the Model S reinforces that these new vehicles are EVs and no longer require the kind of air intake / cooling that traditional internal combustion engines do.
- Identifying the most important questions that a company's products and services should address (Example: John Rheinfrank of Fitch Design showed Kodak that its disposable cameras didn't exist to replace traditional cameras, but instead to meet specific needs, like weddings, underwater photography and others)
- Translating insights into actionable solutions (Example: Jump Associates helped Target turn an understanding of college students into a dorm room line designed by Todd Oldham)
- Prioritizing the order in which a portfolio of products and services should be launched (Example: Apple Inc. laid out the iPod+iTunes ecosystem slowly over time, rather than launching all of its pieces at once)
- Connecting design efforts to an organization's business strategy (Example: Hewlett-Packard's global design division is focused most intently on designs that simplify technology experiences. This leads to lower manufacturing costs at a time when CEO Mark Hurd is pushing for cost-cutting.) Mark Hurd discussed HP's design strategy for determining environmental footprint of their supply chain.
- Integrating design as a fundamental aspect of strategic brand intent (Example: Tom Hardy, Design Strategist, developed the core brand-design principle ″Balance of Reason & Feeling″ for Samsung Electronics, together with rational and emotional attributes, to guide design language within a comprehensive brand-design program that inspired differentiation and elevated the company's global image.)
Many schools have pioneered thinking that has contributed to the theory and practice of design strategy, most notably Maryland Institute College of Art and Johns Hopkins University which in collaboration they offer a dual Master in Design Leadership/MBA, Pratt Institute MPS in Design Management, IIT Institute of Design which offers a Dual Degree program in which students receive both a Masters of Design and an MBA, The California College of the Arts' MBA in Design Strategy, Parsons School of Design MS in Strategic Design and Management, The Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (The Ulm School of Design: 1953-1968), Centre for Design Management - The London Business School, Stanford Joint Program in Design , Strategic Product Design at Delft University of Technology.
Those in academia having a significant influence on the field include: Tomás Maldonado at Ulm, Peter Gorb at The London Business School, Jay Doblin and Patrick Whitney (1937–present) at IIT Institute of Design and Rolf Fäste (1943-2003) at Stanford University. From1994 and onwards, Naomi Gornick and David Walker in the MA Design Strategy & Innovation program at Brunel University London. It is important to note that traditional art and design schools typically will not offer programs based on strategy.
Several notable design-related consulting firms have made design strategy part of their overall process:
- Business Models Inc.
- Made of Man
- Designworks, A BMW Group Company
- Innova Consulting Group
- Todd Bracher
- Design Concepts
- The Design Gym
- Fahrenheit 212
- IBM IX
- PARADIGM Innovation
- Meld Studios
- MAYA Design
- frog design
- Tom Hardy (designer)
- Elephant Strategy+Design
- Second Road
- Continuum (design consultancy)
- Strategic Design Master at the design akademie berlin
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