What exactly is Strategic Design?
"Strategic Design is design as a strategic resource. Applying Strategic Design to strategic issues
concerns of corporations and institutions means creating systematic value(s). Strategic Design is a
value driver in innovation processes."
What is the role of a Strategic Designer?
"I would like to give two perspectives when explaining the role of a Strategic Designer: The
societal role and the role in business. When you look at Strategic Design and its role in society,
you can go as far back as to mediaeval times.
At royal courts, the jester was the only person that could tell an inconvenient truth to the
monarch that no one else would dare deliver. A jester would typically break the news by using music,
humor or storytelling. A strategic designer can play a similar part in society: It is the designer’s
responsibility to speak up when democratic and humanistic values are at stake. He or she has the
powerful repertoire of visual and strategic tools that enable him or her to reach people and touch
When you look at Strategic Design from the business perspective, I would like to take the angle of
competitive advantage in highly saturated markets of products and services. In order to succeed,
companies need to constantly be more innovative and more creative than their competitors. This
constant quest for innovation requires people with a specific mindset who are able to accomplish
such a feat can deliver on this.
This is where Strategic Design comes in: It offers a whole array of tools and methods which enable
individuals and teams to innovate in order to stay ahead in a competitive knowledge-based society.
Strategic Design is not yet a very well known as a typical “job title”
that companies and institutions are looking for. Where will graduates find a job?
"More and more companies recognize the importance of design as a strategic resource. You do
not have to look as far as Silicon Valley, where the frequently cited model company Apple or other
tech companies have managed to create value through design. Digital consultancies, start-ups, and
innovation departments of associated with German companies who have set up a business in Berlin,
are looking for strategic designers. The job description is sometimes not literally “Strategic Designer”,
but it’s it is the skills we teach in this programme that are in demand. Companies are looking for
creatives who are able to understand strategy from a business perspective and are able to visualize
complex systems. The Strategic Designers who graduate from our programme have also been trained
to moderate/facilitate change processes. They are typically good team players, who know how to
foster and leverage creativity in mixed teams."
Who qualifies as a Strategic Designer?
"There is this myth that you are born a creative genius. This is not true. Strategic Designers may
have, by default, a natural curiosity and the innate desire to understand the world. But you can learn
to think out of the box and to use utilize creativity as a strategic source. In our programme, we guide
students how to adapt a Strategic Design mindset. This sometimes involves going off the beaten
track and combining methods and disciplines. Students learn how to use innovative and unorthodox
methods in order to solve strategic issues of corporations and institutions. When they graduate, they
are equipped with a whole set of tools that enables them to tackle complexity. This, ultimately, helps
to understand future challenges. I would like to frame Strategic Design with my personal motivation,
by quoting Albert Einstein: “I am more interested in the future than in the past, because the future is
where I intend to live.”"
Interview with Prof. Katrin Androschin, Programme Director of the M.A. Strategic Design
What does Strategic Design and Creative Direction mean?
While the term strategic design focuses on the strategic planning and implementation of integrated communication measures, creative direction is about management skills, which are necessary for managing complex communication tasks and leading teams.
What lies at the heart of the Master’s course?
Our MA in Strategic Design focuses on the globally-networked world with the ever-growing challenges this poses for effective communication design. This includes the role of branding as the staging of brands: Target groups want to be addressed via increasingly innovative design approaches and are using new media. To ensure that communication can be sustainable in this global environment, it must be performed via a variety of channels with constantly new formats. For this reason, we combine strategy with project-oriented design/ integrated communication.
What exactly are “interdisciplinary design skills”?
Next to strategic skills, courage and openness are required. This includes an ability to look beyond the limits of the subject area and sound out free form in an experimental way.
Why should designers do this Master’s degree after their Bachelor’s?
The experiences with the Bologna Reform have shown that the relatively “regimented” BA course was only able to convey the foundation material due to the brevity of study. In order to be successfully employed in an international environment, specialised skills are required. This is where a Master’s course comes in: opening up current research positions and greater space for specific specialist skills.
Does the MA provide space for the individual interests of the students?
The MA in Strategic design aims to encourage student individuality through the course’s third component: the “free formats” module. Free design projects promote experimentation and offer space for individual approaches.
Is a Bachelor’s degree in a creative discipline not enough? Can you climb higher in the agency world with a Master’s degree?
Yes, I would say so. It naturally makes a difference in how a graduate is perceived if he or she has five years’ of study and two degrees, as opposed to three years’ study and one degree. Masters’ students are generally a little older and more experienced, which can also have a positive effect on one’s chances. But the path towards becoming an art director still takes work. Even as a Master’s student, two years of study do not replace two year’s of experience in the field.
Why is strategy so important for designers?
It’s about “branding” in the broadest sense, i.e. issues of brand management which play a significant role. Even in complex, cross-channel marketing activities, it is necessary for designers to be informed about brand-strategic background information and motivation and consider this as an interdisciplinary compass for design work. The more interwoven this is, the better and more consistent the implementation of integrated communication concepts.
Does a Master’s degree in Design better prepare you for the job market and the needs of the industry?
I think that a fundamentally better understanding of the field of work and the market can come only from dealing with the relevant issues deeply and extensively. Entry into the world of employment often involves graduates coming across entirely new topics and challenges in their field. In this case, a Masters' course, which gives student the chance to network, analyze strategical contexts and international cultural dimensions, can offer an important foundation, ensuring that this “gap” is not too big.
What must a designer be able to do and what do you think the future holds for the field?
A designer must be more open and think in networks. But at the same time, a designer needs to find his or her position in an extremely fast-paced and dynamic world of communication, one which stems from strategic components and stands out from the wider field of arbitrariness. The ever-growing complexities and pace in the digitised and internationalised world require clear and stark poles in the conception of communication, which can only be developed by interdisciplinary teams. Strategy, networking and a capacity for team work are indispensable tools for creating relevant design.