A tight-knit partnership of strategy and design

At its core, C+G is the two of us, Pete and Zayn, design and strategy, supported by a collective of talented designers, developers and writers.

The two of us began working together in 2014 at the brand consultancy Prophet. We had the good fortune of getting to shape some of the world's best known brands and build others from the ground up, from challenging Apple’s dominance over the premium smartphone category with Samsung Galaxy to branding a new bank that would go on to IPO less than five years later. We spoke to hundreds of consumers, ran dozens of workshops and designed more logos than we can recall.

Along the way, we learned how to fuse strategy with design to build brands that speak to both the heart and the head.

Strategy is concerned with research, understanding the competitive landscape and distilling the findings to establish the market opportunity, expressed as a well-formed positioning framework. The role of design is to take the positioning and express the brand visually and verbally in a way that delivers against the strategic objectives. 

When the two work in harmony, the brand connects deeply with your audience and grows more valuable over time.

The conundrum

Despite our industry talking at length about the importance of joining up these two disciplines, most agencies still work in silos. Strategists and designers sit separately and meet twice during a project – first for the kick-off call, then again during the handover. The bit in between is a black hole.

Failing to bring these two disciplines more closely together risks producing either a strategist’s functional impression of the brand, devoid of deeper emotional appeal, or a designer’s artistic impression that lacks a clear purpose. Both fail to connect with customers. 

In a world where people have more choice than ever before, your brand needs to speak to people on both a rational and an emotional level to cut through and shape perceptions.

C+G approach

Having worked on many projects together over the years, we have developed a way of working where both disciplines work together. There are two parts to it.

The first is creating a common language for translating strategic insights into powerful concepts and metaphors that inspire the design. For example, when working on the rebrand of Television Centre from BBC HQ to mixed-use development, a few simple ground rules were defined to guide both the strategic thinking as well as the creative expression. Concepts such as: “don’t sell space, create a sense of place”, or “create a new centre of gravity for London” helped create a shared language that anyone, whether you are a strategist or a designer, can return to throughout the process to understand the strategic objectives.

The second part is more practical, but equally important. It’s about creating an environment for collaboration where we sit opposite each other every day, share ideas and look at them from different angles, meet clients together and build a shared understanding of their business and ambition. Collaboration comes naturally.

Final word

Fusing strategy with design is a great ambition. The reality is harder to achieve. It takes commitment, collaboration and humility. We treat it as personal endeavour, using our experience of working together over the last eight years to make it a natural part of any project.

Contact: hello@cutlerandgoddard.com