Is Design Really Strategy?



Design is obviously important to business, but despite the success of Apple, Target, Ikea, Philips, BMW and other design-centric organizations, so many business leaders still view design and design thinking as “decorative” or “aesthetic styling” after the “strategy” has already has been worked out.

Of course guys like me (and Fast Company) can make a case for why design IS strategy, simply by the fact that strategy is nothing more than clarity of vision for next actions. When it comes to deciding what to do next, what leaves no room for ambiguity?

But is design really strategy or is this "Design IS Strategy" another business philosophy du jour to sell more design and design-thinking books?

Most business leaders might argue its strictly about numbers. Even though I can still make the case that numbers not only can be misleading, they don’t create customers (more specifically woo your customers into falling in love with your brand). If the sole purpose of business is to create a customer as the late Peter Drucker made evident, then shouldn't the core factor be given more importance?

The reality is that this is a loaded question because nothing specific (unlike originality) can be strategy. In a unpredictable marketplace with situational variables, strategy, or the deciding of what's next (to do, to go, etc.) is largely dependent on the current cultural, political and technological context. That said, DESIGN infused into your brand experience not only doesn't hurt, it is a real advantage.

For one, design thinking is about possibilities realized. I can talk or write about about fusing the colors of your imagination all day long, but none of it is going to inspire you or your customers to feel anything like what your see here and the Sony Bravia Ad here.

Design is good. It should be integrated into strategy, and thinking like designers (possibility vs probability-based thinking) can only help in today's hyper-competitive markets with fickle customers searching for the next thing they "might" miss out on. Design makes them stop and notice. That's definitely a solid strategic move in my books.

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