What is strategic design?


Getting these circles to overlay each other, for Brand and User to unite in one common experience, is the power of a well-executed strategic design program.

A Primer on Strategic Design


At AWOL Company, our design team relies on the principles of strategic design to meet the needs of our clients.   A unique field of expertise within the creative consulting field, strategic design involves looking beyond the immediate specific design challenge and taking into account the broader context surrounding it:

  • The product’s role within the brand.  Is it a value-based, high quantity/low margin product or a low-quantity/high cost flagship? Are there other products in the ecosystem?
  • The Brand’s values: past, present & future.  Is it a new startup, fast-follower, or market leader?  Tried-and true cultural icon? All these factors play into the design strategy.
  • Stakeholder Diversity.  Who are all of the stakeholders involved? From target market end-users, to retail partners, to overseas manufacturers, every design has a different list of interested parties and each must be considered, even in cases where needs at odds with each other complicate matters.
  • The Competitive Climate.  What are the client’s competitors doing and saying?   Where are the technological, social, or aesthetic trends in the market taking the industry as a whole? Is a new technology about to disrupt the whole category, or reinvigorate it?

So strategic design neither starts nor ends with the product itself. It is an ongoing learning process about the business dynamics surrounding the product. Like a symbiotic relationship, Design empowers Business, which in turn empowers Consumers.  This guides everything we do: we connect how a specific design will impact the broader business goals of a client’s company and ultimately, best satisfy the needs of their consumers.


Evaluating significant quantities of additional business data does add time to the design process, but the resulting creative work has been proven to generate value down the line.  AWOL Company has perfected this process, rendering it as efficient and effective as possible, and making connections that offer a clear path forward to steer the design process towards a successful outcome. We have found that often, it is far riskier for companies NOT to do this strategic due diligence, than to properly build the creative/business framework that will ensure a new product’s success.


In some cases however, companies simply need additional variations of existing products to round out their product lines. In these cases, the best strategy is to shift to a more tactical approach. This is typically termed evolutionary design, or the incremental improvement of a brand’s core products. Evolutionary design can be executed very efficiently by designers, as the business metrics around already-existing products are typically unchanged.


However, where strategic design really excels is when a company needs to move beyond evolving their current product line, and expand into new opportunities. This pressure may come from changes in market dynamics, the growth of competitors, declining revenues, emergence of new technologies, or changing consumer demographics.


Whether Evolutionary or Revolutionary, AWOL Company always tailors the right approach to take our clients exactly where they want to go.