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Strategy and Design

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I’ve noticed a common trend lately among companies who supply marketing products. It kind of worries me. They’re selling empty promises…. As a business owner you can go to countless websites to build your own logo, website, brochure, business cards or anything else you need to advertise your services or products (you can even do it yourself in 5 minutes on your iPad, apparently). They’re filled with options and are all relatively cheap compared to hiring a professional designer. But, they all seem to leave one thing out: strategy. They try to convince you all you need is to check these tasks off and you can “get it over with” without any real thought.

So where does strategy fit in design?

“a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal”

Strategy is originally a military term meaning “a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal.” It’s a road map showing you which way to turn when you reach a certain point. What move to make next. So, that begs the question: What is your goal? After all, you can’t make a road map unless you know where you are going.

If your goal is to simply get a logo designed then your strategy may be to get a shiny piece of clip-art, hire someone who offers a logo like it’s a side of fries with your print order, or offer over 20 struggling designers some spec work (booooo). With this strategy you can get your logo built for less than $200 in most cases (even £25). Great. You’ve reached your goal and got exactly what you, as a business owner, want: A “cool” looking graphic, exactly how you want it to look, to fill that space at the top or your website or brochure… but is that what your business needs?

why do you need a ________ designed?

Now, let’s back up… why do you need a logo (or anything, for that matter) designed? Ultimately, a logo is one of many brand elements which give your company an identity. Soooo, what if your goal was instead to get a recognizable identity in your market? Your strategy would take on a whole different look and the end result would include more than just a logo.

You would have to start out by determining who your market is. Then, you’d have to understand where you currently stand in the eyes of that market and—here’s the key—create a plan to get from that current perspective to the perspective you want. That is where your strategy lies and that’s really the purpose of any identity design or marketing project. You are trying to take the many possible perceptions of your company and convert them over to the one you want your target market to have. And it’s more than just making sure people know you’re a plumber or a chiropractor. The perception you want is that you’re the “friendliest plumber” or the “gentlest chiropractor.” To do that, you’ll need a lot more than just a 20 starving students throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. You need a strategy that will push your limits and will not be defined by incremental projects you commission just to fill your marketing quiver.