• Strategic Design: The Book on How To Do It

    by  • February 16, 2015 • On Communications Tools and Tactics, On Public Relations Management

    Almost everything I know about design and the management of creative people and processes I learned from Dave Holston.

    He and I first teamed up at the University of Texas at Austin back in the early 2000s. He was part of the Development Division there when I showed up, but I knew as soon as I met him I wanted him in my operation. We’re both Philly guys, after all.

    The first major project we engaged in was the development and implementation of the first brand strategy in the history of UT-Austin. Dave led that initiative and built institutional support for it by using the collaborative skills and creative development tools that are his trademark.

    We have since moved to other institutions, but that brand strategy and the tagline associated with it endure at UT-Austin and remain a foundation of communication there more than a decade after we introduced them.

    There is no one in the public relations profession I admire or respect more than Dave, so when I got a copy of his entertaining and educational book, “The Strategic Designer: Tools and Tips for Managing the Design Process,” I jumped into it.

    The book is philosophical and pragmatic. Dave discusses the thinking behind creativity and the ways to unleash it, and he writes about the value and importance of design as well as its ethical and professional standards. He also gives us tools and techniques for all of the phases of design, from research to concept to evaluation. The book is peppered with case studies, anecdotes and commentary from some of the world’s leading designers and creative thinkers.

    Here is a sample of some insightful quotes in Dave’s book:

    “Design is a potent strategy tool that companies can use to gain a substantial competitive advantage. Yet most companies neglect design as a strategy tool. What they don’t realize is that design can enhance products, environments, communications and corporate identity.” Marketing guru Philip Kotler

    “What people pay attention to is what is different.” John Bielenberg, principal of the San Francisco design firm, C2

    “I don’t think there’s a major client I’ve ever interviewed who didn’t say that the ability to listen was a top characteristic of a designer who did great work. Conversely, clients who complain about designers always say, ‘They didn’t listen and just went ahead and did what they thought was cool without understanding what we’re trying to accomplish and communicate.” Emily Carr, project manager and brand strategist for Gensler, a global architectural, design and planning firm

    I loved this anecdote, which demonstrates how people make most decisions from an emotional, not a rational, perspective:

    Dave writes: “In Robin Goldstein’s book, ‘The Wine Trials,’ he conducts a classic taste test using scientific evidence to show that “wine tastes better when you know it’s expensive.” He enlists the help of 500 wine drinkers and has them sample six thousand unlabeled glasses of wine. The results are impressive. Two thirds of the people preferred lower-cost sparkling wine (under $15) to the venerable $150 Dom Perignon. For wine drinkers, price plays an important role in their enjoyment of the product, even if in reality they cannot tell the difference between a $10 bottle and a $50 bottle.”

    “The Strategic Designer” is loaded with practical tips on crafting an organizational vision and mission statement, conducting effective qualitative and quantitative research, stimulating creative thinking and building strong client relationships.

    Because on this site we have long stressed trust as the fundamental element of mutually beneficial relationships (the lifeblood of public relations), Dave’s line on page 66 jumped out at us:

    “Trust develops over time through the personal experiences people share. At its most basic, trust is doing what you say and saying what you do. By communicating openly about your intentions and following through with them, you establish trust.”

    You can get Dave’s book at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Strategic-Designer-Techniques-Managing-Process/dp/1600617999/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8. Worth every penny.