“What is Design Strategy, Anyway?”

“What is design strategy, anyways?”

This was the question posed to me the other day.  “I like the sound of it, but what does it mean, exactly?”

Here’s the definition I shared:

At the most basic level, design strategy is the balance between design needs and business strategy. It is the process of taking a holistic view of any creative project and evaluates how the specific need solves the immediate needs and how it fits into the long–term goals.

The creative solution for our initial work with Green Beans Coffee, for instance, was built on a solid and detailed, three-page creative brief that described messaging themes and outlined what success looked like for them. While the work could have taken many forms, we also felt using a little of their established visual brand equity would make sense in the final concepts. The result hit the mark because we had specific end-goals and designed the solution to fit in with the bigger Green Beans Coffee goals.

Without a strategy in place, design projects can go off-track in a variety of ways:

  • Creative execution does not hit the mark, even after several rounds
  • Frustrations and tensions run high as deadlines and budgets start to slip
  • After the project is complete, it is hard to evaluate success

In contrast, design strategy allows us to understand desired results and gives us a plan of action. Defining our goals at the onset of the project lets us examine why this piece is being created and the value it generates.

Ultimately, understanding where design fits in to your business helps keep the project focused and running smoothly. The strategic design approach helps:

  • Create ideas that are in line with specific goals, appealing to your desired audience
  • Clearly defines the project needs, keeping it on schedule and within budget
  • Build consistency, trust and inspires action

Are you taking a holistic approach to your design projects? If not, let’s talk. I’d love to help.

Wendy Wood

Wendy Wood

Wendy is the creative force behind Wendy Wood Design. Marketing and creative teams hire Wendy to plan and execute spot-on creative for their complex, multi-deliverable projects, such as: branding systems work, trade show & event deliverables, annual report & catalog design. When she's not in her design office, she is out enjoying all the San Francisco Bay Area has to offer —hiking, running and exploring with her husband, two boys and two dogs. + Meet Wendy


  1. usvintagewood on January 26, 2021 at 11:21 am

    Strategy plays an important, if not critical role in the success and outcome of goals and plans. This is true of business, life, career, and it’s foundational training for the military.

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