Design as a Strategy

May 25, 2021

Nicholas Lee
Senior Creative Designer
Emma Galvin
Creative Executive

Over the last two articles, we’ve discussed the different ways market researchers can use design.

Part one focussed on design as an aesthetic, which usually comes as a project ends.

Part two focussed on design as a process, which is part of the Design Thinking process.

This month we’re focussing on design as a strategy. Using design as strategy helps market researchers combine their research findings with other techniques to turn insights into innovation.

Design as a strategy for innovation

Recently, there’s been a design shift underway in successful organisations. Jon Kolko recently authored an article – Design Thinking Comes of Age – on Harvard Business Review on this design shift. The shift is that companies now place design much closer to their culture and work process than before. This leads to innovation. This shift applies the principles of design that designers use to innovate the way people and organisations work, ranging from customer experience to product development.

Market research and design strategy

Market researchers can use a design strategy to help their clients optimise their offer. This can range from developing principles such as a brand mission statement to help organisations align their vision, mission, and purpose to innovating new products or services. These actions develop brands, services, and products while considering what’s valuable for customers and profitable for businesses.

They do so by addressing the 4 key principles that market researchers can use to innovate in research businesses by using design as strategy.

1: Collaborate within diverse teams to create better solutions

Collaboration is key for strategic thinking – both internally and externally. Internally, this means market researchers need to make sure departments work together to put the user’s core needs at the heart of collaboration. Externally, collaboration means that market researchers must look outwards and work with different disciplines. This will give them new skills to look at business problems in new ways.

Diverse backgrounds coming together brings diverse solutions to solve problems. This leads to a wider range of solutions and ideas which are more informed and produce better results.

2: Ensure that all design is human-centred

People should always be at the core of design, whether it’s a brand, service, or product. Human-centred design works towards the market researcher’s strength, as understanding people comes from research.


Monthly Dose of Design: Developing and Testing Your Design Thinking Ideas

Market researchers’ thorough understanding of the user is based on workshops, focus groups, and surveys. These identify and innovate effective solutions through synthesising information and insights, thus providing the most value to the user. This means brands, products, and services developed with the user in mind enable businesses to build better and stronger customer relationships.

3: Make design iterative and continuous

Once an initial design is completed, you should always seek to improve it. Good design succeeds because it continuously learns and evolves. It is tested, validated, and continuously improved based on users’ needs and pain points. Market researchers have the tools to continuously test products and ideas and therefore easily find ways to make improvements. This saves both time and money for clients, and ensures they are adding value to the users’ experience.

4: Build a design-centric culture in your workplace

Build a design-centric culture by being open to new ideas, collaborating, and using iterative processes as stated in the first 3 principles. The cultural environment this builds helps innovation to thrive and encourages behaviours necessary for successful innovation. Innovation, after all, is about how people behave.


Utilising design as a strategy can help market researchers create sought-after experiences that improve what businesses offer. But it cannot do so until it’s embedded in a business.

Next month we will go beyond Design Thinking to “design doing,” which encompasses agile processes that lead to innovation.

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