A brief insight in strategic design

Real strategic design boils down to setting out a wished for future outcome and use a step by step plan based approach to get there. Strategic design also has elements of playing chess where you go through many what-if scenarios.

Let us take a car manufacturer/brand owner. What does travel mean?  Is it moving from A → B? That simple question is so often taken for granted. This question triggers already a few subsequent questions such as

  • why do we move from A → B
  • do we still need to move from A → B
  • can B → A
  • can A/B meet at C
  • can C be a virtual location

It takes me a few seconds to come up with this list. Is it valuable? I think so as when I look at the automobile industry’s development over the past decennia I see little or no evidence of real breakthroughs.

Fuel efficiency, more comfort, more choice but the car still has 4 wheels, a steering wheel, and so on. Nothing has truly changed in my point of view. Automatic driving might be first real breakthrough though, let’s see how this evolves.

The role of styling, some call that design, is also by most manufacturers very poorly executed. Mercedes is my prime example how the opportunities for brand homogenization is totally wasted. Few of the cars show me the “Mercedes” image or class as it could have. But above all, the cars look every year different and among the different series that is hardly – if any – Mercedes feeling.

But this post is not about Mercedes and styling is only a part of the strategic design process. In some industries the styling plays a different or larger role than in other industries. When the iphone came out the styling was (also) important. Remember we still were in the Nokia era. Soon the iphone and later android phones took over and the styling of the iphone became a commodity of sorts: we’re used to see them all over the place. The styling played a different role in the beginning compared to now. Now the iphone is styling-wise a commodity, it’s appearance is ubiquitous.

A strategic design process looks at that too.

  • What if the product becomes a commodity?
  • Do we want that → can we manage that transition → how ?
  • How does it affect the product?
  • The experience?
  • The status aspect?
  • What other fields compete with our product or service
    • think of how ICT competes with the car industry through distant work or other ICT based services

A few examples of strategic design and – design thinking. This can be taught and used. In the end it saves money, makes the product development more agile and a new way of thinking, planning and manufacturing evolves.

Maybe I should write a book…