Design Strategies

Bridging Strategy from both Business Economics and Design Sciences

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UNDP, 2015) has brought into focus the wide scope of strategic decision-making across the economic, social, and environmental dimensions. Developments at this scale are among contributing factors for business leaders to become more forward-thinking, and to cultivate the organization's strategic and creative capabilities to remain feasible in the long-term (Sardar, 2020; Rohrbeck et al., 2015). Global industry leaders are responding to the zeitgeist that 'business as usual' is no longer acceptable when faced with the many challenges in today's hyper-connected global economy (Gelles & Yaffe-Bellany, 2019). In addition to this, a worldwide depression resulting from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the wide-ranging economic impacts associated with the evolving climate crisis adds to an already volatile business landscape. Meanwhile, scholars focused on thinking about the future are devoting more attention toward exploring the question of what constitutes effective organizational processes for a successful long-term direction (cf. Buehring & Liedtka, 2018; Buchanan, 2015); specifically relevant where the intelligible of design and strategy, and the basic mechanisms (metamodel) applied to the resolution of strategic organizational problems (Borja de Mozota & Wolff, 2019; Gallego & Calderón, 2020).

Design literature offers little guidance on how to build the capacities in support of strategic design and forward-looking decision-making processes. Meanwhile, design problems in terms of business face a double-edged sword: first, they are becoming smaller, more specialized, and on shorter timescales. While on the other hand, wicked problems are increasing in scale, are connected to global supply-chains, with global social, economic, and environmental impacts over larger timescales. Responding to these complexities places growing demand on academia in both the fields of design management and design strategy. In particular, the conversation around the current economic model and its redress to tackle the larger systemic problems, which human-centered design alone cannot solve.

To this end, Cubic number 7 examines different lenses and perspectives relevant to the opportunity and decision-making processes, and from which long-term theories and applications of strategic design can emerge. This call is aimed at explicating the advances design as a strategy has achieved with both theoretical and practical issues according to 8 distinct viewpoints:

  • The perspective of power dynamics: "Managing by design" (Gruber, et. al., 2015) - bridging design principles, and design attitude into the strategy discourse; from designing a corporate identity to sensemaking, systems thinking, purpose, and meaning. How leaders gain influence and establish their legitimacy and identity through strategic design?
  • The perspective of strategic design-driven organizations. What is the scope of design at the strategic decision level in organizations? Description of the job position of the Chief Design Officer or Artistic Director in terms of autonomy and power at the C-Suite executive-level. How strategic are Design Management awards?
  • The perspective of experiences. Strategic design for customer-centricity in organizations. How design leadership and design management transform and align seamless customer brand experiences? How UX designers transform organizations' marketing strategies through hybrid efficient, inclusive, digital performance? How Design Thinking drives cultural transformation of customer processes towards a Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR] enterprise, societal empathy, and mission-driven B Corporations' long-term strategies?
  • The perspective of organizational creativity - from the creative design individual to designing a creative culture shared by all in the organization. How design integration transforms human resources management, and talent sourcing? Are designers' skills integrated as strategic new soft skills for managers at all levels?
  • The perspective of disruptive innovation management through 'user-oriented' design management, co-design with users, experimentation, collaborative and open innovation. How is strategic design lowering risk management and optimism in front of chaotic situations?
  • The perspective of sustainable competitive advantages - from a variety of technical, technological, and biological sources (biomimicry). Design driving "doughnut economies" ecosystems towards regenerative organizations. How is design as a core competency and long-term resource difficult to imitate?
  • The perspective of financial and intellectual capital value - patents, copyrights, licensing, and brands registered. The value of design strategy in macro- and micro- economics. Why is it that designers are not interested in design value? What are the indicators of the value of design in management and vice versa, the value of management for design at the strategic level?
  • The perspective of strategic foresight – with emphasis on connecting design thinking, futures thinking, and design fiction tools as creative processes through visualization and scenario building narratives in support of strategic decision-making. Strategy arising from new ideas derived from different knowledge areas, actors, and stakeholders in contexts and around organizations, thus illuminating why some organizations are more forward-looking and innovative than others.

Contributions are open to both scholars and practitioners to theorize, position, and reflect on applications and practices (incl. field theory). The call solicits responses that contribute towards a holistic review of existing principles, frameworks, methods, and tools for assessing strategic design capabilities, and how they have facilitated the way design is utilized for strategic purposes inside organizations. Understanding the many challenges concerning the strategic decision-making processes of organizations, insights will further contribute to a design strategies research agenda to advance strategic organizational capabilities, and how these can be successfully managed to guide designers as well as organizations and their responses to many twenty-first-century challenges.

Two forms of contribution are possible: (a) academically positioned papers up to 5000 words (excluding references) that exemplify research based on explorations into Design Strategy and (b) process-driven exemplifications that highlight emergent Design Strategy practices that constitute a procedural and visually based contribution in the form of pictorials and videos. All contributions will be double-blind peer reviewed.

Authors are to follow submission criteria for each contribution type as described on the website. Final submissions have to be made by 1 April 2021, at noon, Hong Kong Time to editors[at] and joern.buehring[at] To ensure that contributions receive duly consideration, the submitting author is to include 'CUBIC Design Strategy' in the email header.

Issue Editors: Joern Buehring (HKPOLYU), Brigitte Borja de Mozota (UQAM Montreal), Patricia Moore (MooreDesign Phoenix)


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