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Creative Strategy and The Business of Design - Douglas Davis, Author

Creative Strategy and The Business of Design - Douglas Davis, Author

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Also available on Spotify & iTunes

In this episode, I talked with Douglas Davis, creative strategist, the author of Creative Strategy and Business of Design and he is also the principal of The Davis Group LLC.

We talked about his book, getting the right strategy behind your products, how to write a good strategy and what should you take into account when creating products or solving problems for your consumers. His work experience and previous clients include ABN·AMRO Bank, Council for Economic Education, The Economist, HSBC, Tribal DDB, JWT, Deutsch and many others.

Book references during this episode include Hey Whipple Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan, Truth Lies, and Advertising by Jon Steel and Juicing the Orange by Pat Fallon.

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Key Takeaways

We talked with one of our guests on our podcast, Douglas Davis about business strategy, here is what we learned. First, we will start by telling you who Douglas Davis is. He is an associate professor at the New York City College of technology in Brooklyn, he also an adjoins design professor at pride institute where he got his first master’s degree in communication design. In 2011 he founded the Davis group LLC that offer strategic solutions to the current branding and digital design problems. Here is what we learned about building a strategy behind a new product from Douglas Davis.

Why do Brands and companies need a well-defined strategy for their products?

Business involves way more than just making things pretty, no product just stumbles in the market and it’s weird at the same time that most design programs don’t teach business for marketing even though it’s the whole point of business strategy. It’s clear that these products are not there by accident. Business people are there to help these products brands or services build relationships with the customers that they are trying to reach. Douglas Davis had to literally go through undergraduate design at Hampton University, graduate studies at pride institute to then get into the field, do really well and then lose because he didn’t know how to speak the language of business strategy. As a result business people need a well-defined strategy.

What are the benefits of having a strategy for your product?

Let’s take for example a new brand on the website and they are selling headphones and they need a really good website presentation in order to convert their leads and new buyers. What will be the benefits of approaching this project with a strategy behind it?

Part of the book that Douglas Davis wrote talks about what people say versus what people hear, they will be the marketing people, the other people on your team in the agency who aren’t part of the business team. The point is to sell new headphones which are the business objective, but to be able to do this we need to be able to searchable, we need to be able to be found by the target market. These are the knots and bolts of strategy. Then the business people/company enter. The pros are obviously the fact that you were asked for a new website, you understand what the website is asked for and that’s the translation that has to go through our heads as business people. The benefit is that I can translate that on the go and understand why you need the website and you won’t propose things that are outside the reason you came because you understand the business and the marketing objective. The business person gets the idea of who you are trying to reach as a result of that website.  You have to be able to understand those people and therefore add that to what you are proposing to them in a business-wise manner and composition wise manner since at that instant you are a business person. If business people can address the matrix that people are trying to reach and make design decisions to be in the context of what the work should achieve then the typeface choices or composition are rooted to what the target audience want to respond to. At that point, the conversation shifts because the team becomes an asset and they can be strategic partners who grow businesses and move needles together.

But on the other side, if you are just a business person who for instance comes into the room and hear that people need a website and you just create stuff that has no basis in it or any respect to the brand then it means you are coming to sell people things that you like which is not part of the business reason, the client at that point becomes upset because you have failed to understand his ideas and this can cost you your job. The fact is if you walk in the boardroom trying to defend your job all the time, you will lose all the time. No client wants you to talk about typeface to them because it’s subjective to them, it’s a complete losing battle if you walk in as a businessman without speaking the language that is spoken on the other side of the brain

Practical advice on starting to apply the knowledge you just acquired from this article

The important part is for you to understand what the company does even though you are a business person because, at the end of the day that business person needs to understand the target, they need to impart a certain message and really because of their branding they need to differentiate from anyone else who is in competition with them. A business owner should know what business is all about and what the process is so that they can cherry pick the things that would inspire them. On the other side as a businessman, for example, imagine you are a sole proprietor or entrepreneur/freelancer and you want to pitch business, so therefore you need to know the business to speak the language of business so as to get more business. The true fact is strategy is not for everybody, and it’s really difficult stuff. So to any of the readers who are worried about this to be too complicated or heavy, it’s how strategy is supposed to be, even going to the gym is complicated and heavy. Everything that is complicated and heavy is essential to your survival in the creative field as it evolves. It will be important that you put your toe in and then you put your foot in, your leg in, it’s not different from any of the other things that you had to decide to commit to, with strategy you have to decide what’s important and invest

CREATIVE STRATEGY AND THE BUSINESS OF DESIGN, by Douglas Davis can be bought on Amazon:

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