How to Apply Strategic Design Principles to UX

Strategic design is the crossroads between user experience and business objectives. It means creating a set of design principles that guide your team through the process of building a product or experience. The principles articulate the vision and mission of your project and keep you focused on the big picture as you move through the stages of design. Ideally, strategic design means you will always know the next step. 

Strategic design affects every aspect of your product or service. It encourages designers to look at the design process and a fluid, adaptable approach to problem-solving. Strategic design thinking creates an understanding between designers and stakeholders. It outlines how the design team plans to align the user experience of a product with business objectives. This kind of design thinking improves branding and innovation as well as the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of an organization.

Learn these 10 ways to incorporate strategic design thinking into your user experience designs. 

Table of Contents:

  1. Get Inspired 
  2. Assess the Project
  3. Center Strategic Design Around Business Goals
  4. Ask Thoughtful Questions
  5. Match Strategic Design Principles With Core Values
  6. Keep Strategic Design Principles Fluid
  7. Establish Ownership of Strategic Design Principles
  8. Encourage Collaboration on Strategic Design Implementation
  9. Set Expectations
  10. Have Regular Reviews
  11. Practice Good Communication
  12. Conclusion

Get Inspired

Before laying the groundwork for your own tactical design thinking, you can start by researching the design principles of other companies. Design Principles FTW is a great resource for creating your own set of principles by browsing through collections of inspiring companies and strategies. Principles.Design also has a great open-source collection of design principles and methods. Getting some insight into what other organizations are doing can inspire you to formulate killer strategic design principles that will benefit your team for years to come. 

Assess the Project

Once you and your team have gotten into the strategic mindset and observed how other organizations are using design principles, turn your focus back to your team. Assessing the project in a holistic way is the most important principle of strategic design and the one that should run as an undercurrent throughout the different steps of the project. This is an opportunity to analyze obstacles and opportunities, and to look at the design from a bird’s-eye view. What is the purpose of the project and what impact do you want it to have on the business? 

Center Strategic Design Around Business Goals

The best way to implement strategic design in your UX design is to tie every design decision back to your business objectives. In order to do so, you need to have a clear outline and hierarchy of both your design and business goals so you can make sure they remain aligned. Look at the desired outcome of the project –  how does it directly relate to business goals? What are the key measurements that will serve as performance indicators? 

Ask Thoughtful Questions

Any designer or design team that has successfully implemented strategic design principles will tell you that curiosity is a critical element of this approach. Tactical design is not a step-by-step formula, it’s a manner of thinking about design that serves as a problem-solving mechanism. In order to incorporate design principles into your UX design, you’ll want to ask thoughtful questions about the client, the team, and the project itself. Why does the project exist? What problem are you solving for users? How does the product reflect the mission of your business? Does the product/experience help users in achieving their goals? How does their satisfaction help your company achieve its goals and build your brand? 

Match Strategic Design Principles To Your Core Values

Design Principles should align people around the nature of your organization. It’s important to evaluate every strategic design touchpoint according to the vision and mission of your organization. This involves having designers and stakeholders work together on establishing guiding values. Shopify has a great example of how they outlined their experience values here: Shopify Experience Values

Keep Principles Fluid

Strategic Design is not about coming up with fixed, static rules to guide a project from start to finish. Thinking strategically is more about problem-solving and creating new approaches to old problems. This approach involves practicing the strategy over time, making adjustments, and improving. Implementing strategic thinking into UX design means leaving room for adjustment and change. It also helps you learn along the way by adapting to new understandings of your users.

Establish Ownership of Strategic Design Principles

Implementing strategic design into UX is a project in and of itself, so it’s important to establish ownership from the outset. Assign the job to a person or team who will manage the project from start to finish and keep all of the team members on the same page. Strategic design is a philosophy that will apply to every level and member of your organization, but without an explicit owner of the project, it’s easy to lose focus of the principles. Select a project owner who can create a plan for outlining and adhering to your design principles. This should include everything from creating a hierarchy of company values to selecting the principles to keep them in plain sight (such as on vision boards throughout the office, on interoffice communication, etc.). 

Encourage Collaboration on Strategic Design Implementation

Your organization’s strategic design principles will be much more effective if you develop and implement them in a collaborative way. Invite all team members to participate in the process. It also helps ensure that they are effectively implemented into UX design. Individual team members will have more motivation to use design principles on a project when they have a role in creating the principles. This is also a great way to get team members from across the company to brainstorm ideas on what is necessary for good design. The collaborative process serves to give the principles more meaning to your team on a personal level. 

Have Regular Reviews

Another essential part of implementing strategic design into your UX is to have regular check-ins. Your strategy should be a constant work-in-progress. Planning tasks and milestones will help you assess the elements of the strategy and make sure each principle is supporting the core objectives of UX design. As you finish tasks during the design process, schedule team meetings and ask strategic questions. These check-ins will help you reassess the effectiveness of your principles and make sure each one is directing you toward your intended goals. 

Practice Good Communication

Applying strategic design to enhanced UX is also directly related to how competently designers can communicate. Even the most proficient and talented designers can’t succeed without being able to communicate ideas, processes, and principles effectively. Clearly articulating design strategy and decisions to stakeholders ensures that everyone understands and agrees on the principles and how to apply them to UX design. Asking for input, listening to feedback, practicing empathy, and communicating in a practical manner are all essential for applying strategic design to your projects. 


Implementing strategic design principles to UX requires a tactical thinking approach. This kind of mindset gives us a more useful and effective perspective on building a new product or experience. If you need help developing a design strategy or revising your existing principles, contact us. UXPIN can help your team easily plan, collaborate, and implement strategic design principles that are better aligned with your business objectives. 

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