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What's going on under there?
Say the word 'strategy' to a lot of designers and a shudder runs up their spine leading to a slightly glazed look. It won’t be because they don’t like to think about what they’re doing or necessarily identifying the long term objectives of their client.
What it could be is that some designers identify strategy being more closely aligned to sales and marketing than creativity. They may also believe that they’re not really part of the sales process, doing everything possible to avoid that reality - the ‘creative heart’ believing 'selling' means 'selling out'. For some this could be code for 'fear of rejection' - a very natural human feeling that cuts across all walks of life. We are all biologically wired with a desire to belong. Design and the creative process can be messy as we try new things out, have conflicting ideas to other people and inevitably sometimes fail.
More clearly structured, goal-oriented, process and 'routine’ oriented work requires quite different skills that more often than not require different exposures to this emotional fear. If a designer can overcome this fear or even get it into perspective, you can begin to get a picture of what the strategic creative designer looks like:
- They have a mind set on understanding the bigger picture; working with strategic territories, insights and research to inform assured bolder design decisions. Strategic work helps to channel the client thinking and form a springboard to launch from.
- They're inquisitive, asking tough questions and looking at the answers from different points of view, which moves their thinking to openly see different possibilities, approaches and potential outcomes. Not simply what they personally see.
- They prioritise and then sequence their thoughts, using design to help the target audience focus on the core message.
- They keep things simple and succinct, separating the overarching idea from the tactical detail.
- They try different ways to present background thinking and creative ideas that relate to who they’re talking to.
- They listen and seek out constructive feedback, first making sure what they're working on is aligned to the brief and strategy but is also powerful, impactful, meaningful, and making a difference for clients and their audiences. Engaging hearts and minds, changing perceptions and driving actions. Side stepping personal fears and ego.
- They're openly team focused. Ultimately responsible for the solution's visual expression and how it behaves, but recognising that this only happens successfully when the whole team is focused on working hard for each other's success.
- They understand context, trends, business drivers, organised thinking, planning and have innate creative prowess.
The strategic creative designer never looked better.