The first step in developing any strategy is investigating. Once you’ve done your research you’re ready to develop strategies for the best uses of design to solve your client’s business problems. In addition to determining the design deliverables and attributes that will be most effective, great strategies include metrics — so that the results can be evaluated.
Putting the gathered intelligence to work
You’ve confirmed your client’s business problem and the outcomes they are looking for. With everything you’ve learned from your research about their market dynamics, intended audiences, competitors, and more, you’ll have a lot of information in hand. Now you’re ready to synthesize it all and develop the design strategies that will lead to truly effective creative solutions.
This is a creative process in itself. It’s the time for everyone on the creative team to dig in, look at what’s been learned, and decide on the optimal deliverables and the best creative directions.
It’s important for the team to look at all of the intelligence with a fresh eye to devise the best ideas. The ideal deliverables may or may not be the same as what your client initially had in mind, or what your team had anticipated at the start. For instance, you might adjust the scope or conversion objectives of a web project. Or, based on everything you learned, you might recommend that a series of events will best meet their objectives. You might also recommend additional components — anything from commissioned photography to a social media campaign to drive audiences to their site or events.
What should the strategy include?
These are the major strategy components you want to determine:
- The deliverables that will best reach the intended audiences and move them to the desired action.
- A compelling messaging platform that will resonate with the audiences.
- The visual direction and tone, including a description of colors to use or avoid, types of images, style, etc. (considering how they’ll differentiate from competitors and fit the brand personality).
What about the metrics?
Once you’ve decided on the deliverables and creative attributes, devise approaches that will shed light on the impact of your work after it’s been launched. Bear in mind that the way to measure design is to measure whether the design solution met the business objectives (which will be clearly recapped in your strategy document). You and your client will agree on what will be assessed when you review the strategy together.
The type of project, the size of the client and their ability to do research will influence your recommendations for how to measure results. Web projects easily lend themselves to measurement. Package design’s impact can be readily evaluated. And subtle powers of design — like differentiation, transforming ideas, improving a company’s image and more — can be measured. Your client can ask questions and record feedback to gather data, send out surveys, and even simply observe results such as greater customer satisfaction.
When you’ve hammered out your strategies and metrics you’ll be ready to prepare a document to review with your client — and get their sign-off. You’ll find that the creative development will be accelerated, and your client will also have a clear context for reviewing the creative. And best of all, you — and your client — will ultimately be able to validate the impact and value of the design.
Once you’ve decided on the deliverables and creative attributes, devise approaches that will shed light on the impact of your work after it’s been launched.
1. Creating the Perfect Design Brief by Peter L. Phillips is a terrific resource. Chapters 3 and 11 will be especially helpful as a guide for conceiving creative strategies and mapping them to the client’s business objectives.
2. Managing the Design Process, Concept Development by Terry Lee Stone is another valuable resource. Chapter 4 focuses on design strategy.
The Strategic Designer by David Holston is chock full of excellent information. Check out Chapter 9 for more about measuring the impact of design.