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Integrated Design Strategy

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How I Learned to Design For People, With People

The one question I’ve asked every class that I’ve taught at OCAD University in the last decade is, “What is the most important and consistent piece of any design process?” Generally I am greeted with silence. Occasionally I get answers like “typography,” or “sketching.” The answer I’m really looking for is “a client.” Sometimes I get a clever student who says, “I don’t have a client, the design I’m working on is self-initiated.” When I ask if there is an intended audience, they confirm that there is. That’s when I point out that it doesn’t really matter what medium you are thinking, designing or developing in, all the design that we do is intended for people and usually created in collaboration with people.  

Our integrated strategy at Flywheel is built around that concept. Everyone – from the first interaction to the activation of a project – is an integral piece of the process. In design, the word collaboration has been thrown around so much that it’s losing its lustre a bit, but true collaboration comes from treating each person in the process with respect. As I mentioned above, you can’t create great results without having a strong team balance, trust from your client, and a real understanding of who the intended audience is and what they want.

At its root, integrated design strategy is a process of curiosity and investigation. As I say to my students, this is the fun part. They always look disappointed. I assume that they’re thinking that the designing should be the fun part. Don’t get me wrong, I say. The design development stage is amazing but is made more fulfilling by really understanding who you’re talking to. Scott mentioned in his earlier blog post that clients sometimes seem surprised that we ask questions about their whole business rather than the project that we’re at the table for. To designers, this is an important moment of inquiry. It is only through this inquiry that we can get to know who we are going to work with, how they think, what their business objectives are, how this project fits into a larger ecosystem of materials, and what the best outcome can be. The answer to these gives us an insight that is not only invaluable to understanding our clients and helping us build strategic products for their audiences, it is actually valuable to our clients’ understanding of us and to help build trust in the process.

At the end of that particular class, I always find that my students’ language changes. They start to consider that they are part of a larger community. Once, I had a few students create a review circle where they critiqued and supported each others work. By the way, the student that came the closest to answering my question correctly said, “planning.”  She got a pretty high mark.

That's what we do at Flywheel: we approach design strategically by merging the lines between creative, business and technical solutions with the client at the heart of everything we do. We design for people, with people, expressing brands in a way that resonates with customers and really gets them excited! 

Dominic AyreAuthor: Dominic Ayre
Design



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