The truth is, creatives live on the borderline between business and design, and we are given a very special task. Some of us – and I am including myself because I have been in that place before — completely forget to explore the depth of our creative thinking and often let the client take the wheels of the project by asking all sorts of wrong questions in a form questionnaire.
In order to understand the value of strategy in our design process, we need to understand the role Design plays. That is the first step to being more confident with our decisions, and what kind of people will work best as our clients.
Strategic Design is a partnership business between the designer and the client, and that is probably the best upside for our clients.
Design for the end-user
You are not the point, neither is your client. But how come, if it's our brain, their company, and their money? The nature of our job is not to our personal taste, nor our client's, but a data-driven, creative contextual decision-making process.
Let’s get more practical: the nature of strategy is reverse engineering a goal by using data points. Those data points in the case of design work can range all the way from market share to testimonials and customer reviews from the business we work with. "Data” is not some science-based astronomical information. Data, for us, is just facts that we need to uncover in order to make better decisions, and to help us think creatively within those bounds. Your job with design is to make something work based on data-driven decisions, not to be a people pleaser.
Strategy leaves a broader room for creativity.
Not only because you will know what direct and indirect competitors are doing so your project stands out, but because the limitations are actually an invitation for innovation. And they aren’t taste-based limitations. How many times have you done a design with one colour or one font only for the client not to like it anymore? What if you had done the whole process with data, showing that certain colour has been overused and it is best to “turn left” in order to stand out?
Your prospect might fill out your 10-field-questionnaire and tell you they like a font this way etc. While those are important questions to manage the conversation with your client, they are far from being the most important. It's not that we don't think the right fonts and colours aren’t important, or that they need a business card. The problem they are trying to solve – but can't pinpoint – is where the real value of the project lies.
Colours, typography and deliverables are a by product of a well thought-out solution to their problem.
In order to find the value, you need to drop your 10-fields-questionnaire and get face to face and hands-on during a discovery workshop. We are in the people business. Get smarter with your questions, and define what is the problem you are trying to solve.
- Ask them what they are trying to achieve with the project, and what would happen if they didn't do anything.
- Ask what kind of ROI (return of investment) they want to have.
- Ask them what is their best selling service or product (if they are not new in the market).
- Ask what they wish they had going on in their business.
- Ask why they do what they do.
You will need to exercise empathy in order to understand what kind of concerns they have and what problems they are trying to solve within their business, and how your creative work can help bridge that gap.
Broaden your horizon
It's important that you, as a strategist and as a designer, get acquainted with more than the design world. If you have a lot of hobbies and enjoy reading all sorts of different books, you might find strategy fun to do. It opens new data-driven possibilities that you might not have thought about before. Most people never leave their bubble, and in business, more often than not, firms never change their way of doing things exactly because they are lying to comfortable within their ways.
Filling the gap with strategy
People will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to achieve something they — or their competition for that matter — have never achieved. And they know that sum is probably a fraction of what they will get in the long term, and that's really how a business owner will perceive the strategy and creative work.
You can't sell people what they don’t believe in.
You really can’t. Try selling a Samsung lover an iPhone and let me know how that goes!
In any case, the gap you are filling with strategy work is what really matters to business owners, the wider the gap, the more valuable your thinking and solutionsare. On top of that, you will be attracting different kinds of prospects, with a bigger interest in growing their business and a different mindset towards building that legacy.
Are your clients not believing in the value of strategy? Kindly decline working with them. Read How to say no to a potential client.
In our next article, A strategic creative brief template helps brand designers offer brand strategy as a service we get hands-on and show you how a creative brief template has the power to guide you and your client through a brand strategy workshop.