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Three essential principals of strategic design for today’s economy

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First in a series of posts highlighting the importance of strategic design in today’s economy. It is inspired by the book “the Strategic Designer” by David Holston.

I just finished an enlightening and thoughtful book on the strategic importance of design in business today. I’m going to share with you some of what I believe to be critically necessary aspects from the book that all business decision-makers should embrace. I’ll start with what I think are the three principals of strategic design in today’s economy.

1. Design is more than aesthetics.

Strategic designers are more than decorators of your communications materials. Strategic design involves complex problem-solving skills that factor in things like audience context and the client’s business environment before beginning the project.

2. Design is more than the designer and the project at hand.

Design today is more of a collaborative process as the complexity of the communications channels expand. Clients, the target audience’s goals, and the creative specialists (graphic designers, copywriters, design researchers, photographers, etc.) must come together and work to find common ground that speaks in a clear, unified voice and is understood and meets the intended communication goals.

3. Design should be accountable

Imagine trying to measure the depth of an ocean with a ruler. Design is hard to measure due to its ability to influence attitudes, behaviors, sales, and satisfaction. That requires a newfangled ruler that doesn’t really exist. However, establishing design metrics that can be measured are becoming more possible, even for small business clients. Utilizing surveys, measuring web traffic, analyzing sales and using focus groups can all help establish benchmarks for measuring return on investment.

These principles will be the basis of upcoming blog posts that will delve deeper into each principle to hopefully show the growing importance of design in 2012 and beyond. Designing things like websites, logos and brochures are at risk of diminishing client returns if left in the hands of novice designers. However, a strategic designer that understands your communications goals, your audience needs and your aesthetic sense are what’s needed to succeed in business.

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