Are all designers also strategists?

3 min readJan 14, 2020

Let’s start from the beginning defining the word design. As a noun, the Merriam-Webster defines it as “a particular purpose or intention held in view by an individual or group” and as a verb “to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan”. It’s also interesting to see the range variety of words classified as synonyms, such as architecture, composition, form, idea, plan, layout, model, and so on. In a broad sense, the design is a process. It can start from the idea until the construction. Oddly, none of the definitions or the synonyms has any word about users, customers, or clients. The human aspect is not part of this general perspective.

Some will say it started around 15,000 or 10,000 BC where the first pictographs were found in the Lascaux caves in France. But only in the 20th Century, we start to see designers working as we do nowadays. Applying co-creation with a more human-centered approach. In the book “A Tiny History of Service Design.” Daniele Catalanotto mentioned that design thinking appears for its first time in the book “Experiences in Visual Thinking” by Robert H. McKim’s, from 1972. Later, with the advance of technology, the term Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) became popular in the book “Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction” published in 1983.

Design is now a trend word. Professionals who work in the field have all sorts of specialization. From fashion to web there are tons of different fields with designers working. As a designer, I can see more often all those professionals applying a human-centered approach. Maybe this is the only thing that such a diverse team has in common.

source: “Principles of Interaction Design: What It Takes to Create Positive Human-Computer Interactions”

What does it mean to be a strategist?

Wikipedia defines it as “A strategist is a person with responsibility for the formulation and implementation of a strategy. Strategy generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. A strategy describes how the ends (goals) will be achieved by the means (resources).”

A strategist for sure is more connected with the business side. On the other hand, the designer is more connected with the customer/user side. The strategist is oftentimes involved in the project in the early stage. That professional might be able to draw the big picture and set the path in order to achieve and specific business goal. A designer is part of the project and their goal is to create products or services that will create the best experience as possible for clients with the best return for the business side.

From my perspective, a good product/service might fill in the user’s and business’ needs. Even though lots of designers will disagree with me. We need to find a balance. Pushing the design for one of those sides more than the other will create an unstable company with a huge impact on the customers/user and the business.

A strategic designer should be a hybrid professional that could find this balance at the early stage of the project. So, what do you think about the designer’s role in a company? Should designers be the customer’s advocate or just they are able to find a middle way in this conversation?