Understanding Design Strategy

This article has been authored by Kadambari Sahu, Vice President of Design, ValueLabs, and Swastika Dash, Design Strategist, ValueLabs.
It provides an introduction to design strategy. It points out the differences between design, strategy and design strategy and articulates its significance in business. It explores on how it works its way through in organisations and helps in growth.

How is design becoming an important facet in business?

Design’s role is becoming central in shaping businesses, and its presence is being felt stronger than ever. It is quickly evolving, taking a cardinal role in innovation and broadening its influence in the business world.

What is Strategy?

Strategy, a rather well-known term in business, is the art and science of throwing light upon important insights and making worthy decisions. It encompasses of communicating timely plans and developing reliable processes that an organisation can adhere to. It helps in managing change to attain competitive advantage and success.

What is Design Strategy?

Design and Business are two different realms of an organisation, with the power to shape and inform each other. Design Strategy helps in elevating the Customer Experience and bridges the gap between the business and design. Embedding the right design processes and design strategies in business and organisational practices across sectors, paves the way for a sustainable growth.

Is Design Strategy a tool?

Design Strategy (DS) today is being used as a tool to facilitate the humane and business connect. It leverages the value systems within organisations that uncover new business models.

Design must overcome the prevalent perception of making things just beautiful, functional and usable. it is strategic & can open unexplored doors that might connect to newer dimensions of interesting, unexplored possibilities.

how design strategy works

DS coherently expresses the parameters and potential of a specific challenge, driving to a series of solutions. It makes insight generation easier, by involving multiple design thinking techniques. This leads to compelling and actionable outcomes that define a success story.

Divergent Thinking

The ideal nature of strategy includes having major, crucial insights paired with an openness to possibilities not yet thought of or tried before. Strategy is not just convergent rationality but also poetically creative. Connecting divergent thinking and creativity to conceive new possibilities is what characterizes DS.

Ability to Turn Intangibles into Tangible

DS seeks to use, embed and innovatively apply the thought process for a specific problem. Design thought could be based on creative, empathic, integrative, systemic, synergetic, holistic and human centric skills.
Intangible values like communication, relationship, trust, growth & networking are converted into tangible outputs & scenarios that translates DS into a victorious reach. That in turn, approaches to business, organizational and management processes, making them more efficient and effective.

Connecting Business and Design

So, essentially, DS has very little to do with the ‘commonly understood definition of design’; just physically ‘create’ something meaningful and useful. Rather, it is also camouflaged as business strategy, helping the growth and painting the bigger picture accountable tweaks informed by Design Thinking. Thus, key driving metrics from marketing, sales, and growth play huge role in making of a product, service or experience, where DS is hugely involved.

Once the business side is understood, there comes the crucial participation of a good design strategy.

building good design strategy

Lens Mode On!

Now that we have some idea about DS, how do we delve into creating a good DS that stays, impacts, and assures of a ‘well-designed’ success? Here are a few thoughts to achieve the same.

What are you trying to solve?

Knowing the exact problem makes it a lot easier to understand where we are and what we are aiming for. Focus should be on the goals and knowing if we currently have or can build strategies for the same. Mostly in this phase the ‘WH-questions’ help a lot to untangle the mess.

For example: What are we trying to solve? How are we trying to solve?

Answer: We are trying to remove the leaks in the sales funnel so that the growth of the company increases by x% and making the interface between prospective clients frictionless.

Ask the important questions.

This phase dwells into more broader questions, with more context and scenarios put into place. Here are a few questions that can lead to deeper thought.
What are the business goals and user needs?
What is the systemic issue in this case?
Where should the primary focus be?
Why are we focusing on the context?
How do you choose the lens to eliminate scenarios?
What can we realistically do?
What are we creating exactly?

Have your priorities sorted?

The way we prioritize guides the approach to solve any given problem. After the analysis of the series of needs, ideas, insights, and scenarios, “weightage” comes as an important saviour to eliminate the unnecessary.

For example:
Choosing functionality over aesthetics can give the product/service a much better purpose while at use.

Thought leadership and long-term goals over instant gratification play a lead role in taking an idea /organization a long way. This process lets us realize the bigger picture and people over small issues & trivial scenarios, that won’t matter the next day.

Focusing on what the core issue is, addressing the peripheral solutions along with it, and then adding a bit of magic (x-factor) increases an organisation’s sticky quotient.


Design makes a difference by translating intangibles into tangible and making them memorable. When we add the right strategy to it, it impeccably assures success by looking at it holistically. Design strategy can define the path that would lead to a systemic level of success over small achievements.

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