Design is fundamentally a value system, a set of principles, that is then manifested in tangible form.
Conventionally, this has been known as setting the design criteria. However, rather than specification guidelines, as used in engineering, if one were to change metrics and numbers into values or emotional responses, one could, in fact, create a method for building and managing a brand.
For example, once you are able to identify your core value proposition, what sets you apart from the rest – it doesn’t even have to be only your competition or the industry in which in you belong, but in totality – you can then use those characteristics to set your criteria. This helps you develop a “personality” around the brand, or its character in a story or narrative. The “persona” or story, once identified, translates into the ‘design criteria’ or the specification document i.e. the PRD. However, when you take this one step further, into the perceptual or intangible, you can use the same qualities, identified by the persona or story, to articulate the essence of your brand.
Once a picture of this hypothetical brand is captured, to a degree, by this snapshot, every element that supports it, is held up and measured against one question only. Does this activity, action, message or product, work towards maintaining the integrity of the big picture brand personality? Or does it set up a cognitive dissonance in the customer’s mind because it breaks away from the existing perceptual image of the company or brand?
This integrity is necessary in guiding the process of building the brand, marketing strategy, or even corporate planning, particularly in operating environments where uncertainty is the only certainty. Are we being true to ourselves? Are we consistent with our brand promise? Are we keeping the faith?
And as you can see, this process of do, check, tweak, redo, maps on to the definition of design thinking given in bold above and also the basic user centered design process.