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Strategic design ISBN 87-90904-79-6 Published by: Danish Design Centre Frederiksholms Kanal 30 1220 Copenhagen K

Strategic design

An introduction to the economic potential of design Danish Design Centre

Strategic design A company that works strategically with design is a company that uses design deliberately and systematically as a means of promoting the company’s overall goal. Your products, marketing materials, stationery, website, trade fair stand, services, points of sale and physical setting all have a design that help define the company. The more coherent these aspects are, and the more the design supports your company’s goals, the more strategic is your use of design. Design strategy decisions are made in cooperation with the company’s management. The daily work with design is handled by the employees in charge of the relevant areas.

Visions and goals

The outside perception of your company

Identity – Core values – DNA



Marketing materials

Points of sale


Design leadership Strategic design is rooted in your business strategy. Guidelines and objectives for the use of design should be written down. Many companies today have a design manual that outlines the vision and goals for your design and the values that constitute your company’s DNA. A clear design DNA makes it clear to your customers and users that your products and website come from the same company. A design manual should also include a description of where design is applied, and what role the design DNA should play. For example, it does not necessarily make sense for all companies to use design in relation to points of sale or packaging. In considering and deciding how to use design strategically, it is a good idea to draw up a list of all the contact points (that is, products, website etc.) between your company and your customers.

Regardless whether your company outsources its design assignments or handles them in-house, the design manual should include a description of the demands concerning innovation, product development and graphic materials. These sections provide part of the content for the design briefs that your company prepares for ongoing development projects. A design manual that includes these points serves as the company’s design strategy, and like all other strategies, it should be revised very oftenand be challenged on an ongoing basis in relation to opportunities and market challenges. The design manual saves time and money by preventing your company from having to invent the wheel all over again with every new project.

Design company

Business strategy

Design strategy

Design brief

Design process

Product/ solution

Increased eearnings

Design as part of your business strategy Vision, mission and goals should serve as point of departure for all developments within your company.


An example of a vision and a design vision:

What sort of company do you want to be?


A vision describes your desired future. Ideally, your vision should be within eyesight but outside your immediate reach.

Travelling with care


What do we do? How do we do it? Why do we do it? Your mission statement describes how you want to create your desired future – your vision.

DSB/Danish Railway System


What do you want to achieve? What are our goals? Goals are landmarks for monitoring your actual results in comparison with desired results. In connection with the use of design, it is also important to set up goals for how your investments and, not least, your activities should be measured and evaluated.

Design vision Taking the train should be simple

Design vision

How should design promote your/our overall vision? A design vision describes your desired use of design.

DSB/Danish Railway System

Values – design DNA

DSB – values

Like any person, any company has its own ‘soul’ and its own unique DNA. Core values are an accurate description of the essential qualities that characterise your products and services.


Core values consist of hard and soft values. On the one hand, a factual description of what makes your products and services better and different. On the other hand, a description of the experiences and values associated with your products and services.



It is important for any company today to be clear and specific about their design DNA. Quality and price are no longer key competitive parameters, and even if a company is first to market today, these competitive parameters are no longer enough to ensure a competitive edge in the long term. One way to enhance your long-term competitiveness is an increased focus on ‘soft values’ – the immaterial and experiential properties. Experiences are far harder to copy. The more you manage to integrate these values and experiences into your design, the more competitive you will be.


Important questions to consider


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Why are our customers buying our products rather than the competitors’ products? What sets us apart from the others? What do we have that the others don’t?

3 checks Example

It is important to undstand the so-called ’soft values’. The look and feel. How you express your company’s DNA. To give an example. Look at these three pictures. They are very different and most likely give you different perceptions. If these pictures each represented a hospital, which one would you choose? Instead, if these three pictures each presented a cinema, which one would you then choose?

√ How can design help us achieve our goals?

√ Who is responsible for design in your company?

√ What sets us apart

from the competition?

5 pieces of advice

Strategic design Workbook

”Prepare a carefully considered business plan based on market needs”. Bjarne Haulrik, managing director, Protec Vinduer A/S

”Consider and define vision, goals and strategy before you initiate the design process”. Bjarne Haulrik, managing director, Protec Vinduer A/S

”Take an interdisciplinary approach to find novel perspectives”. Bjarne Haulrik, managing director, Protec Vinduer A/S

”Think big, and be ambitious”. Bolette Blædsel, CEO, bObles ApS

”Create a unique product”. Rasmus Eibye, managing director, Hansens Flødeis ApS

Strategic design Make a design manual for your company. Where are you going to use design in your company? (mark with an X)

Who is responsible for the manual? Including who develops the manual, update it, and make sure it is beeing used.

Products Service Packaging Brochure Stand Shop-in-shop Stationery Website Everything else

How do we ensure ongoing development and knowledge sharing across product development and communication?


Why are we here? What are our goals?

Design vision

How do we want to use design to promote our overall vision?

Values: DesignDNA

Why are our customers buying our products rather than the competitors’ products? What makes us unique? What do we have that the others don’t?

Hard values

What functions do our products have? What makes our products better? In what ways are our products different from the competitors’ products?

Soft values

Design elements

What ‘personality features’ characterise us and our products and services (social, energetic, environmentally conscious etc.)? What are the priorities for our products and services (honesty, loyalty, complexity etc.)?

What are the unique design elements that characterise our DNA? How do we apply these elements?

The application of design

The application of design

Corporate identity, marketing materials etc. – our values should be translated into all our graphic materials. How are they expressed?

Product design – how are our values reflected in our products?

The application of design

The application of design

Service design – how are our values translated into ‘tone of voice’?

Communication – what characterises the way we address our customers? What characterises the way we sometimes treat our customers and stakeholders?

Strategic Design  

An introduction to the economic potential of design

Strategic Design  

An introduction to the economic potential of design