The Zen of Design Strategy

Summary: I’ve been traveling non-stop to design agencies recently. Hope to post about my experiences soon. For now, I’ve been thinking about the intersection of design and strategy. Here’s a zen take on things…

I often dream about “what ifs.” Possibilities that could build a better world.

When I walk city streets I wonder: “what if we all chipped in and helped give the homeless homes?”

“What if we lived in a world where it wasn’t about our partisan allegiances to republicans or democrats, but simply who made the best leader?”

“What if instead of focusing on identifying the problems, like global warming, our primary instinct was to envision solutions and following them through, no matter how hard?”

“No” you say, “there’s always a need for compromise in reality.”

But what if it wasn’t about compromise and contraction, but about designing within constraints — about expansion?

What happens when the bottom line, and the creative ideal come from a unified source?

In my dreams, our dualistic brains, the right and left hemispheres are a single unit. We all individually communicate with both art and science — with paint and with code — equally. And when we talk about “business goals” we never ever mean “sell more!” or “bolster the bottom line!!” These monetary motivators are indistinct from “helping people,” at least in this dream.

“Creativity abhors a vacuum,” said Charles Ivesit can’t exist without constraints. And in this dream, design abhors a blank sheets of paper.

In this dream, the goals of the business are to fulfill customers’ needs, not stakeholder wants. And design is never just the creation of “products.”

Instead, design is creative construction based on deep consumer insights and strategy. It flows from conjoined hemispheres of the brain — from “strategic+creative” — with one unified purpose: make things to help people.

Design is strategy.


Strategy is design.


The left and right brain are one.


The one-brained designer creates things for people, not on a white canvas, but in a real environment, surrounded by real stimuli and inputs. The one-brained designer creates things to help people, which in turn grows a business. And in this dream, businesses exist, not for self-serving stockholder-driven goals, but to serve their customers.

This is my dream. A single cycle. A never-ending pursuit. The dream of a design strategist — of a strategic designer. And this is my mantra:

Let us help people.


And by doing so, help each other.


And by doing so, help ourselves…