Design Strategy: 5 Steps To Create Your Own

Design has monumental impacts on a business’s ability to succeed. With a thoughtful design strategy, you’ll be primed to take on design challenges. Interested designers must establish their design strategy before tackling challenges with their team.

Design is key to the effectiveness of a user experience (UX) and communicating core brand characteristics. In many cases, a brand’s credibility is bolstered by the quality and authenticity of design materials.

Both print and digital design assets help show consumers who you are as a business. To ensure you’re connecting with the right audiences and adequately introducing them to your products through design, you must develop a design strategy.

This article will provide an overview of the following 5 steps to creating your design strategy:

  1. Focus on end goals
  2. Know the competitive landscape
  3. Showcase brand differentiators
  4. Define research methods
  5. Set measurable goals
  6. Refine strategy over time

Following these six steps will start you on the right path to creating and adapting your design strategy to meet new challenges.

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What is Design Strategy?

Design strategy sits at the crossroads of UX, corporate strategy, and graphic design. It requires combining design thinking and the practical analysis of corporate requirements.

Only those who can evaluate the needs of an established business and leverage design to meet those needs will succeed in crafting an ideal end product.

Design strategy allows designers to merge these two schools of thought in their work to meet the expectations of end-users. Because big-picture thinking is required in this process, a design strategy is meant to meet complex, long-term goals.

Stay Focused on End Goals

As a design team, it’s essential to set goals early and reflect on them throughout the project.

While working on a complex problem, it’s easy to spend much of your time focusing on the intricacies of the work rather than thinking about big picture goals set forth at the start of the work.

The vast majority of consumers (75%) judge the quality of a business based on the company’s website design. Aware of this, your clients will come to you with ideas on how they’d like to be represented and what they want out of the project.

These goals will be established early — before you dive into sketches or wireframe design. Despite their presence early in the process, you should frequently check back on your progress toward these goals.

Client goals can be adjusted based on findings over time, but they must remain the central focus of your design strategy.

Know the Competitive Landscape

Understanding the competitive landscape when developing a design strategy is critical to the success of the project.

Consumers expect certain design trends and standards depending on the industry. Their familiarity with certain colors or user flows may entice you to involve them in your design strategy.

For instance, the color yellow is associated with safety. Many construction-focused companies have taken to utilizing the color to position themselves as a protector to consumers. This is seen in both the Caterpillar and Stanley logos and design materials.

CAT logos

Source: World Construction Today

Keeping popular trends makes it easier to appeal to established consumer associations. Additionally, knowing the competitive landscape helps you determine any opportunities for improvement. Keep a look out for gaps that could be solved through your design strategy.

It will be your job to make sure the design is unique, functional, and aligns somewhat with industry standards. Understanding the competitive landscape will allow you to accomplish this.

Remember Brand Differentiators

Just as you must align with industry trends, you must make sure your design stands out and offers perks that competitors do not.

Brand differentiators and desired characteristics are a great source of inspiration for addressing uniqueness through design. Ask your client the following questions about their business to determine how you may address their needs in your design strategy:

  • Does your brand have a story behind it?
  • What makes your company stand out from competitors
  • What ideas do you want people to have when they interact with the designs?
  • What are your values and mission statement?
  • Do you have existing design elements that should be included?
  • Is there anything you’re specifically looking to avoid?

Your client will provide you with the information you need about their value to clients through their services. That will set you off on the right foot when communicating these benefits and value propositions through design work.

Set Measurable Goals

It’s crucial to set quantifiable goals to ensure that your design solutions effectively meet your customers’ needs.

Experts recommend that designers and other professionals employ the SMART goals acronym when defining goals for their work:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

Select metrics relevant to your client’s desired end goals and make plans to test your work against them. The results of testing these quantifiable metrics will help you steer the project in the right direction if it’s off-course. If effective, measured goals will validify your design strategy.

For design projects, consider any of the following metrics while setting measurable goals:

  • Task success rate
  • Time-on-task
  • User error rate
  • Customer satisfaction rate

These KPIs will help you understand how customers interact with your design work. By setting benchmarks for success using measurable KPIs, you’ll move forward with your project with a clear sense of direction.

Refine Over Time

Your design strategy isn’t meant to be static and stay the same forever.

You should think of it as something that should always be adjusted as you learn more about which methods are most successful. As a designer, think of each new project with an open mind. No two projects or clients are the same or have the same goals for their design work.

It’s up to you to recognize your successes and opportunities for improvement through testing your determined measurable KPIs.

When things aren’t going as planned, be ready to pivot your design strategy to meet your client’s needs.

Design Strategy is Key to Creating Impactful Products

Design strategy allows teams to unite to make meaningful improvements to a business’s current design.

Keeping open communication with your design team as you strategically think through design problems together.

Be sure to learn key information about each client to execute your design strategy effectively. Then, use measurable goals and KPIs to make sure you’re delivering the best solutions for your clients.

Need help selecting a company?

Based on your budget, timeline, and specifications we can help you build a shortlist of companies that perfectly matches your project needs. Get started by submitting your project details.

Get Started