4 ways to integrate design and strategy

As part of a recent video series with johnson banks, account director Katherine Heaton joined Michael Johnson to discuss how the studio's immersive creative process works, the role of strategy and how to keep plates spinning. In this article they share four key ways creative directors can integrate design and strategy.

01. Don't rely on jargon

“We’re in the business of communication, so why use complicated jargon when talking to people who are not familiar with the industry?” reasons Heaton.  

Johnson adds that not-for-profit clients may not have archetypal Stanford MBAs. “They’re more straightforward, down to earth,” he says. “If we talk about things like ‘inherent brand positioning perception’ we’re met with blank faces.”

02. Blur the lines

Fluidity between the stages of the design process is key. It starts with research, through interviews, audits and workshops. Next comes strategy, including positioning and brand narrative.

“Technically our design stage is third, but we often blur stages two and three,” says Johnson. “It’s an issue for many companies: how to go from where they are verbally, to visually how they’re going to look.”

Heaton and Johnson are experienced with handling difficult rebrands

Heaton and Johnson are experienced with handling difficult rebrands

03. Help the strategy bed in

Stage four includes guidelines and implementation, and for bigger clients, this is followed by ‘embedding’– or as Heaton puts it, “communicating the new brand to staff within the organisation, and helping them figure out their launch plans.”  

“We don’t just finish the manual and run away,” insists Johnson. “If a brand doesn’t percolate down, it’s not going to work. It’ll be one of those stuck-on brands that people often criticise.”

04. Remember: tough is good

“The politics of a rebrand are far more complicated than straightforward new brand projects,” admits Heaton. “We have lots of experience dealing with the politics now, which is why many clients come to us.”

“People say: ‘that project must have been difficult,’ and if we say, ‘Yes it was,’ they say: ‘Good! You’ll be able to do ours.’ That happens again and again. You’d be amazed how many clients need to know you can handle the personalities in the boardroom.”

This article was originally published in Computer Arts magazine issue 258. Buy it here.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Nick Carson

Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.