What is a Design Strategic Plan?

A design strategic plan is a clear, detailed, integrated and coordinated plan of action that comprises corporate strategy and design thinking goals, objectives, desired outcomes, and a series of steps that significantly helps project and business managers in designing a system that fits in their company, institute, department, association or organization.  This strategic plan is a useful management tool with the aim of communicating corporate or organizational performance goals, explaining the goal-setting process, conducting environmental scanning, emphasizing the focus of subordinate managers, highlighting the role of strategic planner and the connection of design strategic planning and budgeting. Project managers and strategic planners should work hand in hand to promote collaboration, efficiency, better relationships and longevity by using this plan especially when achieving further development and success. 

An Adobe/Forrester report has shown that design-led firms consciously put the customer first, with 46% of design leaders citing an emotional bond with customers as a defining characteristic of an advanced design practice. That’s why it is crucial for companies and organizations to formulate and put their design strategies into effect by structuring a methodology, a framework, a roadmap and a way of thinking, plus having a strategic thinking mindset. Thus, all kinds of working professionals like project supervisors, content design strategists, marketing design strategists, business managers, and business owners should effectively create a comprehensive design strategic plan.

Different Types of Design Strategic Plans

Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How will we get there? These are some of the common questions strategic thinkers ask themselves. Thinking strategically is essential for strategic planners so that they are able to focus on problem solving, develop clearer strategies, facilitate proactive behavior and establish a stronger bond with employees or members of the organization. Also, developing a tactical thinking approach through design strategy is a fundamental method in gaining a better understanding of business or organizational objectives, user goals and then translate the needs into valuable design solutions.  So, you should be well-informed about the different types of design strategic plans that you will use for your business or organization matters. Here we will explain to you about the different types of design strategic plans below:

1. Department of Art and Design Strategic Plan

Lidia Varbanova wrote in the book Strategic Management in the Arts that strategic management for organizations in the arts and design culture whether in the world of profit-oriented creative industries, publicly funded institutions or non-governmental organizations has become a widely acknowledged standard of operation in this sector.  The creativity, ideas, knowledge, skills, experience and competence of the people involved in the process are the key to the success of any organization. Internal and external measuring and reporting results is a very crucial phase in the strategic management process because it is related to the implementation of the plan. There are various ways to formulate the anticipated results in a strategic plan such as planning, recording and analyzing creative results (related to the quality, evaluation and attitudes shown towards the artwork or creative product), marketing results (related to the media coverage, marketing budget spent versus increase in the audience, etc.), financial results (increased sales revenues, enlarged number of supporters, etc.), organizational results (changes in the management competences and skills, improved team-building, etc.) , and innovative results (new programs, models or techniques implemented). Creating a strategic plan in the department of art and design or simply in the arts and design culture is an integral method in developing proactive steps to attain a goal, and assessing immediate issues and concerns in the art and design field. 

2. Health Design Strategic Plan

In order to elevate efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation in health care services, medical and healthcare executives and managers need to apply design thinking in their business strategic plans. Doing this will guide them in increasing the focus on the needs of the patient and the provider. According to conducted studies of design thinking application to health care, all of the studies comparing design thinking interventions to traditional interventions demonstrated greater satisfaction, effectiveness, and usability. “Initial results of the interventions included in this review are promising; all but one demonstrated positive effects on at least one identified outcome, and half (50%) showed positive effects on all measured outcomes. In addition, in the studies that directly compared the design thinking intervention with a traditional intervention, the design thinking intervention generally demonstrated improved outcomes and higher usability and satisfaction,” as explained in the research report entitled Design Thinking in Health Care. Thus, preparing a systematic health design strategic plan is useful in improving eclectic health care and other medical services.

3. Design Process Strategic Plan

David Kelley, Founder of IDEO, said: “The main tenet of design thinking is empathy for the people you’re trying to design for. Leadership is exactly the same thing – building empathy for the people that you’re entrusted to help.” This means business and organizational managers and designers need to search for user-centered solutions, empathy and innovation so that they are able to address certain issues and concerns in their staff or management, and their clients or the public. Does this make my client stand out? Will this design work with this target audience because it catches and holds their attention? Designers should ask themselves these questions as they allow strategy to be the framework for their design decisions augmenting their intuitions. This will help clients reach a competitive advantage when they understand and leverage what is distinct about themselves. Writing a design process strategic plan is an important method to differentiate the company or organization’s products and services among their competitors and to guide them in focusing on their core purposes and missions.

4. Design Collaborative Strategic Plan

A survey report found that there is a 21% increase in profitability for extremely connected teams or teams who spent more time doing collaborations at their work. “Since design itself is equally unpredictable and teams that are also idiosyncratic and serendipitous, there is a need to structure collaborative working,” as stated by Fiona Maciver and Julian Malins in the book Collaboration in Creative Design: Methods and Tools. There are several advantages in adopting a collaborative design approach in all kinds of projects such as products, computer softwares, clothes, buildings and experiences. As we see in our environment, design is a people-centric discipline as it depends on a dynamic social setting. Products and services are developed, manufactured and sold according to the major shifts in the commercial, technical, cultural and social landscapes. That’s why working together through cooperation, collaboration and communication with clients, users and a wide network is crucial in designing products and services. Making a design collaborative strategic plan is a worthwhile planning tool to support the collaborative effort of project managers, product designers, and others. 

Basic Components of a Design Strategic Plan 

In this section, you will learn how to construct a well-written and systematic design strategic plan. However, a design strategic plan has different kinds of components. Include the following elements for you to create a professional piece of writing:

Overview: It presents a simple and cohesive design overview about the priorities, activities and tasks that must be completed in the company or organization. Being the compelling part of the design strategic plan, it describes the main purpose of the overall strategic plan. Create a short explanation of methods and strategies that will be executed through the process of accomplishing the overall strategic plan.Design Strategic Goals, Objectives and Issues: Identify logical design solutions for assessing the issues inside the firm through strategic goals and objectives. The design strategic planning team should specify the issues to assess them carefully. Desired Outcomes: Indicate the desired outcomes the strategic planning team want to execute in the strategic plan. When writing desired outcomes, ensure that they are sensible based on the current skill level and rate of progress of the people involved in the strategic plan. Budget, Resources, Strategies and Methods: This section contains some details about the resources, strategies and methods that will be used in implementing the strategic plan. List down the flowof procedures involved in the plan. Use some strategic planning tools such as SWOT analysis, PEST analysis, balanced scorecard, or agile strategic planning. Progress Monitoring and Evaluation: After listing the strategic methods and procedures, the strategic planning team should review the design strategies to determine if they worked as they were intended to do. The methods should be refined as needed and maintained. Thus, conscious monitoring and evaluation is critical in this step.

How to Write a Design Strategic Plan

According to a report published by Adobe, 50% of design-led companies report more loyal customers as a benefit to having advanced design practices. So, applying design strategy in business plans is beneficial in facilitating an integrated, holistic planning process as it includes design and business strategy in their management. Project managers and brand designers need to effectively translate brand vision into well-designed solutions. If you need to construct a set of creative decisions on how to approach goals, purposes, and objectives, follow the steps indicate below on how to write a clear and structured design strategic plan:

Step 1: Define Strategic Position

What are the design’s measurable goals and objectives? Think carefully and reflect the company or organization’s choices and the strategic vision about the type of value it will establish and how that value will be made uniquely than its competitors. Through identifying goals and objectives, project managers and strategists are able to know how powerful their brand is in the minds of the customers as they seek out their competitive advantage, fully defining their strategic position. It will help in driving up prices of the company’s products and services to increase profitability and/or balance prices with acceptable quality.

Step 2: Research People and Gather Information

What internal and external factors impact the design? It is significant to research people and gather information by conducting effective interviews. Market researchers usually used interviews to learn how to sell their products. While journalists perform interviews to collect essential information from various individuals and groups of people. Project managers and business strategic planners need to conduct interviews to elicit information from participants of the interviews about a particular topic or set of topics. These topics are made from the research questions linked to the strategic plan that will be written and executed.

Step 3: Develop Efficient and Innovative Strategic Methods and Procedures

How will the design work to meet those challenges and opportunities? Brainstorm some efficient process-oriented methods and procedures along with your team. Set meetings where all team members feel their ideas are listened to and valued and where constructive criticism may be openly voiced. Work together to brainstorm the best design strategies for your initiative. Check your proposed strategic methods and objectives for completeness, and accuracy.

Step 4: Perform a SWOT Analysis While Continuously Monitoring and Evaluating Business Performance

Make a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis from the methods and procedures  to detect what exactly will be done in the design strategic plan. After that, continuously have careful monitoring and evaluation during the design strategic planning process. How well does the design achieve its goals and objectives? Observe and contemplate on what is working and what is not working. 

Step 5: Proofread and Finalize the Overall Design Strategic Plan

Review your entire design strategic plan and make sure that you fully present all the major points in your plan. If you realize that you overlook some sections that need more elements, it is essential to edit and revise the document as soon as possible.


What are the basic components of a design strategic plan?

The basic components that should be included in a design strategic plan are overview, goals and objectives, desired outcomes, resources, strategies and methods, time frame, and monthly progress monitoring and evaluation.

What are some examples of design strategic plans?

Some examples of design strategic plans are design institute strategic plan, department of art and design strategic plan, school of architecture and community design strategic plan, college of environment design strategic plan, design process strategic plan, design open strategic planning, design team session strategic plan, design center strategic planning, school of interior design strategic plan, health design strategic plan, co-design strategic plan, design collaborative strategic plan, design facilitation services strategic plan, and many other design strategic plans

What are the important steps in the design strategic planning process?

The important steps in the design strategic planning process are defining your strategic position, gathering people and information, conducting a SWOT analysis, developing an efficient and innovative design strategic plan and continuously monitoring business performance.

How to create an effective design strategic plan?

If you need to create an effective design strategic plan, you should bring together a clear and realistic vision and proper execution. Be more specific when you construct your design strategic plan while mapping long-term plans to definite objectives and actionable steps, fostering innovative thinking and anticipating and mitigating potential pitfalls.

Whether you are setting a pattern of actions leading to a design solution, innovating using design in a contextual sense, or leveraging social responsibility, cultural relevance, technology, customer needs and other factors in design, it is fundamental to be skilled in writing a well-structured and coordinated design strategic plan for your company or organization.  To assist you in effective design strategic planning, you can learn and apply the tips aforementioned in this article. Plus, we have included several design strategic plan layout templates to guide you including health design strategic plans, co-design strategic plans, design collaborative strategic plans, department of art and design strategic plans and other design strategic management plan templates that you can download easily and quickly!