Put differently, design strategy is a way of translating the intent of a business, product, or service into the experience of that business, product, or service. To that end, the strategy occupies the crucial middle ground between what the business wants and what the people need. It’s important to note that both business goals and user needs must also be aligned with existing technical constraints to develop competitive products.
- What success means (and for whom) and how success will be measured. How can both the business and the company win?
- The problem the company is addressing and why it needs to be solved. How is the company making customer lives easier?
- The unique value proposition (UVP). What is the company’s competitive advantage?
- A set of design principles, which we touched on earlier.
How exactly does design strategy add value to a business? Consultancy firm McKinsey and Company decided to find out. After conducting comprehensive and rigorous studies on the subject, they found that:
- The companies with the best design strategies increased their revenue at nearly twice the rate of industry competitors. The same can also be said for shareholder returns.
- There was a strong correlation between high design scores and superior business performance. Businesses were better able to achieve short and long-term goals.
- The notion of superior design leading to superior business performance is consistent across different industries.
- The user/customer marketplace disproportionately rewards brands with good design habits. These habits use familiar language to increase trust, brand recall, brand recognition, user satisfaction, and the customer experience.
As an addendum to the McKinsey and Company study, let’s now take a look at benefits that help business operations more generally.
Design strategy enables the organization to clearly define who its target audience is, what they need, and how it can create value for them. Products based on these insights tend to be more successful when released to the market and can easily be improved with subsequent iterations.
Ultimately, the right product is a cost-effective product backed by robust research. Due diligence during the development stage helps the organization avoid a scenario where it has to spend time and money attempting to rescue a failed product. However, as Peter Thiel intimated in his book Zero to One, no amount of iteration will remedy a product that should not have been built in the first place.
Organizations that have clear and understandable goals tend to perform better because employees are empowered and engaged to achieve them.
A good design strategy removes the trivial decision-making that can sometimes plague product development. This means the design team has more time to focus on meaningful issues that matter to the customer or increase productivity.
Many businesses proclaim they are user-oriented, but a design team with too much of a user focus can end up developing features that are costly, time-intensive, and only result in modest gains.
In theory, design strategy helps a user-oriented organization focus on product features that strike the best balance between low effort and high reward. This helps the team create the most value for the largest cohort of their target audience and is a far more sustainable approach than the alternative.
- Design strategy is a framework applying the tactical thinking of business strategy to the needs of the user to create the most effective products and services. The strategy occupies the crucial middle ground between what the business wants and what the people need.
- Design strategies should detail what success looks like for the business and the customer. They should also detail what the problem is and why it needs to be solved. Lastly, it should detail the unique value proposition that gives the business a competitive advantage.
- Design strategy has many benefits for organizations. In a study conducted by McKinsey and Company, design strategy was linked with increased revenue, superior business performance, and increased consumer trust. More generally speaking, design strategy facilitates cost-effective product development, smarter resource allocation, and feature prioritization.
Related concepts to design strategy
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