In my second attempt of writing a blog post, I would like to talk about the role of a strategic designer in a business setting. A few weeks ago I introduced myself; fresh from university and just started at Veeel at the strategic design department. In the academic and theoretic world, strategy design looked promising to me. It should be the next big thing that all corporates would have to implement to be successful. But how does it look after a few months of experience in the real world of business?

Some time ago, we got an email of a CEO of an interesting company. He wanted to talk to us about this new product that he was developing. We went there and discussed what we, as a design company, could do for him. We found out, that according to the CEO, this product was fully developed and he only needed a shape from us. He considered that if the product had a nice designed shape and if it looked a bit like an Apple-product, it would probably be selling like hot cakes. After we explained the Veeel approach of developing products, we advised the man to let us take a step back, analyse certain strategic issues and look at the product-user interaction, before starting sketching a shape.

This is not the only company where I experienced this kind of situation in the months that I am working now. I have the idea that it is a traditional setting; the company’s CEO has a new idea or the sales department brings back customer complaints. An R&D person does a lot of research and develops some kind of technical system with great capabilities. It’s made by a production facility and the sales department is back on the road to sell the product. In the scheme below (based on: Recipes for Systematic Change, Helsinki Design Lab, p40), it fits in the first situation. A certain analysis is done or an idea is born. Separate and subsequently from that, a solution is being developed.

The scheme shows that the role of a strategic designer in a business setting is in the middle of analysis and solution (situation 2). He/she is responsible to go back and forth between analysis and solution in order to come with a final solution that brings sustainable value to a company or business. This role is an ambiguous one, as it apparently difficult for managers or CEO’s to place this within their organization or project. During my education, it was told that a designer’s role is touching several disciplines and I could imagine the ambiguity. However, when you are on a faculty with a few hundred design students, it is hard to imagine that companies would NOT want a (strategic) designer!

To go back to the above mentioned CEO: when I explained the added value of our approach, he luckily agreed. But he did not wanted us to perform some strategic analysis on his product idea. He just wanted the sketches so that his product was going to look like an Apple product… Well, good luck to him and hopefully it will turn out good for him and his company. I am only enriched by these experiences. And my next blogpost will be about: finding the ideal client…