How is Design Strategic? Clarifying the Concept of Strategic Design

By John Stevens, James Moultrie and Nathan Crilly.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

It is claimed that design services have an increasing (and increasingly recognised) potential for strategic influence in organisations. This paper is a theoretical exploration of this claim, and of the meaning of design in the context of business strategy. Design’s capabilities and influences, as recognised in the domain of design management, are related to the well-known, established strategy concepts. These include positioning and differentiation (Porter’s value chain and five forces), views based on internal resources (knowledge, learning, competence), and, briefly, on strategy as an entrepreneur’s personal vision. In an attempt to clarify the concept of strategic design, three ways are proposed in which design might be termed ‘strategic’: competing by ‘high design’ can be a strategy in itself, design can help implement strategic positioning, and design methods (or ‘design thinking’) can inform strategy formulation.

Keywords: Strategic Design, Business Strategy, Evaluating Design

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.51-60. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 831.978KB).

Dr. John Stevens

Doctoral Researcher, Centre for Technology Management,, Institute for Manufacturing, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK

John is a PhD student at Cambridge University investigating the role of design as a strategic resource for organisations, commercial or otherwise. He is supported by a CASE award from the EPSRC with Ove Arup & Partners Ltd. John holds a BSc in molecular biology from King’s College, London and a Master’s in Industrial Design Engineering from the Royal College of Art (with Imperial College). He has worked for 10 years in industry including five as Head of Design for a technology company, where was creative director and manager of the 12-strong design team, followed by three years as an independent design consultant.

Dr. James Moultrie

Cambridge University, UK

James Moultrie is a University Lecturer in Innovation and Design Management. His research interests seek to improve the utilisation of design skills and increase design/innovation capability at project, firm and national levels. James is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer (IMechE) and has many years industrial experience as a project manager, senior engineer and marketing product manager. In 2000, he was awarded a 'Scientific and Technical Academy Award' and an Emmy for work on a range of lenses for professional 35mm cinematography.

Dr. Nathan Crilly

University of Cambridge, UK

Nathan is a Lecturer in Engineering Design at the University of Cambridge. His research interests are in the areas of industrial design, product aesthetics and consumer response. In particular, he is focusing on the potential for product appearance to act as a medium of communication between designers and consumers. Nathan holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, a PhD in Product Aesthetics and and has professional experience in the fields of aerospace design, materials research and information technology.


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