Building a Design Strategy for Your Business - THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

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This article comes from our full guide that can be downloaded here.


“Design is a fundamental sales tool in any company, and choosing the right designer is paramount.”

Prime Encode was formed to aid designers and other creatives and to create a community where ideas can be shared and work can be done collaboratively. Our core objective is to create a means for designers and developers to improve workflows, and to change how we live and work through innovation. Prime Encode is offering this article as a starting place for you to realize the numerous opportunities that design can bring to your business.

Ask yourself, “what will I create, and how will it make the world awesome?”


Design opens your business to unlimited business opportunities. Its benefits are usually underestimated, but done right, design gives tangible gains.

Graph showing how design investment can create additional revenue

In fact, every dollar a business invests in design generates more than $2.25 in increased revenues (FactFinder Report, 2007).

The research and prototyping stages of a business design process can give rise to new product or service ideas. Design can also help your business turn the new ideas into innovative and marketable products or services that are tailored for your clients. The UK Design Council reports that “83% of businesses that have adopted design as an integral part of their strategy have developed new services or products in the last 3 years contrasted to 40% of business overall.”

Businesses also use design to streamline operations, boost efficiency, improve work and sales environments, and to make their brand more competitive. In fact, the primary element of innovative design thinking is brainstorming and ideating on a solution to find ways to better meet client needs. In the modern business world, design is the element that defines successful products from duds.

This article discusses how design can benefit your firm, from the generation of new product ideas and new product development to sharpen your strategy. It also details the key stages of a good design process, and how you can manage the design process and quantify its outcome (success).

Design is an evidence-backed and repeatable problem-solving protocol that any professional or business can employ to boost performance and efficiency.

It combines critical and creative thinking in a manner that allows ideas to be organized and analyzed, decisions to be reached, processes to be enhanced, and knowledge to be acquired. Business design is a mindset that focuses on finding solutions to problems. To illustrate the power of design in boosting performance, consider Apple, the epitome of a design-driven business, it has hit a market capitalization of more than $570 billion, bigger than Switzerland’s GDP. Steve Jobs built Apple on ideals of beauty in form, innovation, and simplicity, and Apple almost failed when these ideals were abandoned.

Effective design improves a company’s bottom line. Businesses that view design as integral are 200% more likely to grow than businesses that don’t (The Value of Design FactFinder Report, 2007). If your business has been ignoring the value of good design, then you are missing a crucial competitive front. Applied systematically across your business, design gives the following benefits:

• Increased sales
• A better market position compared to competing business
• Fewer customer complaints and enhanced customer loyalty
• A strong brand identity
• Newmarket acquisition
• Faster market penetration
• Consistent compliance with legislation and improved social responsibility

Business Card Designs and logo mockup for a company called micron biomedical

Design Mockups by Prime Encode

Please note I am not talking about hiring someone for several days or a week to create a leaflet or logo, I am talking about utilizing the creative skills of a professional designer to shape business strategy. The type of engagement that makes your business more competitive, innovative, and profitable.



Designer at her office shaking a couples hands

Effective business design gives prospects a reason to come to your business, not your competitors’. Design creates products that inspire organizational buyers and excite individual customers. Effective design is a viable differentiation strategy; properly designed products stand out in the market. There is evidence to show that even at significantly higher prices, customers are ready and willing to buy well-designed products that can give extra benefits such as increased functionality, enhanced aesthetics, and a rich user experience. For example, consider First Direct, a UK-based bank, it has designed its service outlets so carefully that it has emerged as the most referred financial institution across the UK. In fact, 82% of its clients are happy to recommend it to a friend.


As a marketing tool, design is based on the fact that promising big and delivering bigger is the only reliable success strategy. For your brand to create a buzz, you must set your expectations high, and for you to attract and retain high-value clients, you must surpass these expectations repeatedly. A great first step towards attaining such high performance is setting the expectations of high quality in your organization, and effective design is the best way to do so.


Innovative design seeks to raise your brand awareness and move leads towards buying your products. The most crucial aspect of getting people to buy from you is winning their trust. Research has proven that your brand determines how clients code your offerings in their minds - this brand is synonymous to comfort and value, or this brand equals quality and luxury. Regardless of what your potential market holds dearly about your business, your brand is the shorthand for it.

Everything you do from your print materials, blog posts, Nimlok booths at exhibitions and trade shows, social media presence, all of these say something about your brand's primary message. Innovative design speaks a lot about your firm’s professionalism, positioning, and quality in the market. It gives your brand a means of getting traction, and raise its voice above all the other competing signals from content producers and advertisers. It enables your brand to capture the attention of the right prospects and maintain the grip. Good design helps you communicate to your prospects in a memorable way. It gives the highest chance of getting your brand noticed; note that on average, design-oriented companies expand their market share by 6.3 percent using design alone.


Designing for Efficiency

Besides enhancing the products and services you sell, design can improve the way your business operates, the quality of its packaging, the cost-effectiveness of the raw materials it utilizes, and so on. For instance, careful design of the manufacturing process can result in significant savings, either direct or off your P&L. It can also make use of more eco-friendly and efficient materials and processes, assisting your firm to comply with sustainability legislation and regulations.


As the starting point in adopting design as part of your strategy start with these:

• Determine how and where design is being used in your firm.

• Find ways of improving the design process – such as hiring a designer or increasing management involvement in the design process.

• Look for a department/s in your business where design opportunities might be realized.

• Make sure design is a key agenda in your management meetings, business planning documents, and in your entire office by sustaining a
design culture.

• Conduct market research to uncover your market needs through A>B testing, surveys, or customer development interview panels.

Effective Design Should Be an Integral Part of Your Strategy

Successful companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft use design as a key component of their strategy. Adopting design at an early stage can save your business money, increase your growth rate, and create a rich customer experience. Simply searching for means to better satisfy your market needs is a great step in using design strategically. Note that even the slightest of design-oriented changes can give significant business outcomes.


Designers design more than products. They also contribute to the design of their company’s culture

Effective design covers more than graphic elements or the outward appearance of things such as marketing materials, website design, and product packaging. It plays a crucial role in all aspects of a business. Design is not solely about managing the appearance of your firm; it is also about managing your firm’s operational processes to boost efficiency, and to get constant design input from all of the sources at your disposal. Every member of your team should be involved and should know and care about your key metrics, and how your design is influencing them. They should all be behind your brand 110%.

Firms adopt many types of design including:

• Product design
• Graphic design: signage, logos, infographic design, vehicle wrap design, compliments slip design, and marketing literature, software interfaces and manuals, and more
• User interface and experience design
• Packaging design
• Exhibition design
• Retail Design
• Interior design and fit-out
• Architecture – especially refurbishment and building renovations

Robot juggling creative elements of design

Getting, and maintaining a constant stream of feedback on design from your staff (all of them), your clients, and your prospects will ensure that you are adhering to the needs of your market, and the ideals set out by your brand. “Designers design more than products. They also contribute to the design of their company’s culture—inspiring and educating their colleagues on the importance of design and great user experiences.” Read more from this excerpt from a great webinar from Zach Perkins, director of User Experience and Design at TaskRabbit:


The process of designing competitive products begins with the determination of what your clients want. The more information about your prospect's needs and preferences from design-led user research and market research, the higher the chance that you will design products that they will all want to purchase.

Good product development involves:

• Performing market research
• Developing a product or service concept (new or revised)
• Coming up with the initial design
• Determining the resources (materials and people) and the process needed to produce it
• Prototyping
• Testing the product (user trials)
• Revising the initial design in line with findings of user trials

Design is a powerful tool for new customer acquisition and new market penetration.


Design is the most effective tool of retaining clients and positioning a business for new market penetration. You can use design in numerous ways to appeal to new markets.

Such as:
• Prototyping to create products that can be used to identify market needs and preferences
• Boosting your brand awareness by creative use of graphic design, packaging and
customer communication.

Note that market needs are dynamic, therefore user observation, market research, trend research, and prototyping, all key stages of the design process, can help you establish and maintain close contact with your market.


“Define who is responsible for the entire design process.”

The secret to the successful use of design lies in coordinating the individuals (managers, designers, and employees) involved at all levels of the design process with a view to achieving the design objectives.

Design Process Success Ideas:

• The first step of a design process should be to define the project goals and purpose. In business, this would be; new market penetration, customer acquisition, development of new products, etc.
• Design should be based on research from current users or prospects; both at the beginning and throughout the design process.
• Define who is responsible for the entire design process.
• Hire a suitable designer, and present him with an outline of your goals, budget, timeframes, and brief him on the constraints you are facing; legal or others in developing the design.
• Ensure your production, marketing, and sales departments are ready for a new product launch or re-branding.
• Monitor and control the project at all times – make sure unwanted deviations do not occur.
• Bear in mind to act fast and protect the intellectual properties that arise from the design process.

Once the design process is a SUCCESS – collect as much feedback as possible from the individuals involved. It will help your firm run future design processes more smoothly.


It is usually a great idea to perform a design audit that involves an analysis of the key areas of your enterprise such as product and brand, your work practices, service development, and communication with clients. In addition, a design audit investigates the role design fulfills in improving the functional areas of your business. It may lead to the discovery of opportunities to utilize design to make your firm more efficient, sustainable and to add to the perceived value of your offerings. Simply put, a design audit is a review of the various elements that your firm uses to interact with its stakeholders.

A good audit will consider the following:

• What materials do you use to communicate with clients?
• Are they electronic or printed, delivered via email or mail, or in a one-to-one presentation?
• What is your ROI from design projects, and what metrics are being affected by it?
• How often do customers visit your physical location, or frequent your website?
• Have you designed your retail spaces, offices, or warehouses in a manner that supports your overall brand?
• Has your firm designed effective call centers, distribution, and advice services?

We hope you found this information helpful, and to be a great starting place on how to incorporate design practices into your business. Some companies have a firm grasp of design from the ground up, and that is great! But, others find it harder to break from some of their traditional practices and open up to a design central workplace.

This article was a collaboration and was written with James Craig.

Michael McAllister is the owner and lead designer of Prime Encode, LLC. Residing in Burt, NY he enjoys graphic design, painting, hiking with his family and their labradoodle named "Dude", and working on trucks and things around the house.


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