Design is Strategy Amplified

By Brian Byrne     3rd Dec 2019  

Following on from my last blog post, Roadmap for Success, I want to give you an idea of how brand strategy is implemented at Lands and how it’s the basis for effective identity design. But first, let me take you back to the midpoint of the decade, around 2016. Up until that point in my career, I had been using a combination of interviews and questionnaires to collect the information needed to start an identity project. But something didn’t feel right, the data I was collecting felt superficial, and as a result, the output seemed to reflect that. My clients were happy, but I wasn’t satisfied with the approach. I knew there had to be a more effective way of connecting with clients and gaining a deeper understanding of their business needs. I knew if I could do this, I would be able to deliver more creative and effective solutions. So I started to do some research.

This is when I found Core—a framework developed by Jose Caballer and Chris Do, to bridge the gap between business needs, strategy and design. The idea behind Core is that you keep asking questions until you get to the very root of the problem. Once the problem is defined, then an effective solution can be found. It was exactly what I was looking for, the perfect solution for someone learning about strategy. It broke the process down into easy to understand steps, and I felt excited at the opportunities this could present for me. I could see a path in which to pivot from just being a designer to someone who offers a more strategic service.

The first step in the Core framework is a facilitated discovery session with all the key stakeholders. This includes three main exercises—Brand, Users, and Goals. It’s here we find out about the business and develop a direction for the brand. We discuss internal culture, outside perceptions, the impact the company has on its customers, its differentiation and competitive advantage. We help the client discover and connect with their ideal customers—what their needs might be, what challenges they face, and how best to serve them. We help prioritise the clients business goals in terms of marketing, revenue and efficiency.

The information collected in this session is compiled into a comprehensive brand document— this includes business objectives, brand attributes, positioning statement, value proposition, customers profiles and short term business goals. This is the guiding document for the new brand—providing clarity and alignment. It’s the basis for all marketing, strategic and aesthetic decisions moving forward.

Brian Collins is an American designer, creative director and educator. You might not know the name, but you’ll recognise the work he’s done for Spotify, Dropbox, Mailchimp, ESPN and Coke. He has a beautiful way of describing how he links strategy and design at his agency, Collins—

“We like to uncover a personal story about a brand based on an emotional, human truth. Then we use design to amplify that truth.”

What is a human truth? Insight! The primary goal of the discovery session we use at Lands is to gather information to build a brand strategy. But it’s also where insights are found—the hidden nuggets of information that can open up all sorts of creative possibilities, allowing us to produce identity work that is unique to the client and their company.

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Brian Byrne is a graphic designer and founder of Lands.
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