Of Strategic Design Thinking: Four Principles For Your Business
Strategic design thinking
creates great opportunities for
cross-functionally-excellent designers with a strategic aptitude of a
By Rakia Reinolds
Strategic design thinking has one single goal: to
understand and solve a problem for its consumer. This method is applied to
the design of intangible services and processes, an idea we have become
familiar with in the new "Age of Experience."
The current generation of consumers has developed an intolerance for
inauthenticity, which means that brands need to shift their thinking from
traditional to thoughtful. The tide is turning in the media and
communications industry: now, it's about focusing on the truth, or what I
like to call the “story behind the glory.” My job is to make sure our
clients have as authentic of a brand voice as possible.
A recent global study released by Cohn & Wolfe found that nearly nine out of
10 consumers are willing to take action to reward a brand for its authentic
approach to marketing. Despite the fact that this strategy is a sure way to
amplify their messages, many businesses poorly execute these new practices
of engagement, which creates a proverbial slump that lacks creativity,
direction and innovation.
As an entrepreneur who is constantly searching for opportunities to grow and
exploring potential programs to add to my growth, I turned to my friend Dr.
Natalie Nixon, Director of the Strategic Design MBA program at Philadelphia
University. Formulated to incubate a new wave of hybrid thinking, the
program's focus is on trying to understand the experience of your brand
through the perspective of the people who are buying it.
Natalie shared the four main keys to implementing a strategic design
thinking model to your business structure:
1. Go beyond the quantitative data, and seek qualitative feedback. In order
to know what motivates your audience to take action, you have to filter
through the one-size-fits-all data approach to truly understand who they are
and what their needs require. “Empathy education is at the core of strategic
design thinking,” advises Dr. Nixon. “Companies have to reach beyond the
structured, quantitative statistical research that businesses often rely on.
It is interacting with consumers to understand their desires, and then
customizing the experience in a remarkable way.”
2. Apply lateral thinking. Sometimes businesses get bogged down by the
rinse-and-repeat method of the same practices. To drive fresh solutions, it
is vital that we look across industries and harvest new sources of
inspiration. “To see your business with new eyes, open yourself to the
practices of opposing industries – for example, if you work in beauty,
attend a tech conference in order to design a new strategy,” suggests Dr.
3. Prototype experiences. It is easy to wrap our minds around the "look and
feel" model of prototyping when a fashion designer makes a prototype of a
dress. But it's a lot more difficult to quantify experiences that don't fit
within our concrete sensory perception. Applying prototyping is about trying
to understand the experience of your brand through the perspective of the
people who are buying it. How do you prototype an intangible experience in
today's information economy? “Make it an active experience – we want people
to ask lots of questions and come up with a range of insights,” advises Dr.
Business Design Defined
The two components of a
Business designs describe different possible
configurations of a business idea, how this idea adds value, and how it is
capabilities to create
Strategic business design is about creating
business growth strategies.
design. and management in a
way, strategic design helps to create an
innovative business model,
identify promising strategic opportunities for action, and redefines how
problems are to be approached in future.
"Strategic design is the application of
future-oriented design principles in order to increase an organization’s
innovative and competitive qualities. "Traditional definitions of design
often focus on creating discrete solutions—be it a product, a building, or a
service. Strategic design is about applying some of the principles of
traditional design to "big picture" systemic challenges like business
growth, health care, education, and climate change. It redefines how
problems are approached, identifies opportunities for action, and helps
deliver more complete and resilient solutions." 
Its foundations lie in the analysis of external and internal trends and
data, which enables design decisions to be made on the basis of facts rather
than aesthetics or intuition. As such it is regarded as an effective way to
bridge innovation, research, management and design.
The discipline is mostly practiced by design agencies or by internal
development departments. Businesses are the main consumers of strategic
design, but the public, political and not-for-profit sectors are also making
increasing use of the discipline.
Its applications are varied, yet often aim to strengthen one of the
following: product branding, product development, corporate identity,
corporate branding, operating and business models, and service delivery.
Strategic design has become increasingly crucial in recent years, as
businesses and organisations compete for a share of today’s global and
“To survive in today’s rapidly changing world, products and services must
not only anticipate change, but drive it. Businesses that don’t will lose
market share to those that do. There have been many examples of strategic
design breakthroughs over the years and in an increasingly competitive
global market with rapid product cycles, strategic design is becoming more
In today's knowledge- and innovation-driven
are in growing demand. They are
cross-functionally excellent people who can tie several silos of
business development expertise together, create
business model and a
people who will put their plans into action...