Here I am sitting at my desk at a great hotel in Avila, Spain about an hour and a half from Barajas Airport where I will catch a 09:55 flight tomorrow morning to Belfast connecting through London.
Invest Northern Ireland is the economic development agency tasked with helping Northern Ireland businesses to grow and expand into new markets.
InvestNI has invited me to MC a seminar, 'Harnessing the power of design', one of a number of events in their 'Design for Business' series. Attendees will comprise Invest NI Companies, locally-based SMEs and key stakeholders from the economic arena. About 150 delegates are expected.
Richard Seymour of seymourpowell is the guest speaker.
I have also been invited to run one of four workshops for delegates that follow on from Richard's presentation. These cover brand, digital design, product design and design strategy, (which is the one that I am presenting).
And what can design strategy mean for companies that are small and medium-sized, operating in a recessionary environment and located in a relatively small population mass of 1.5m people?
Well of course, I believe that design strategy is particularly important in such a context.
Gaining differentiation and mindshare with your end consumers / customers is critical and so therefore is the development of strategic, user-centred foresight and story-telling skills in support of the ability to sell within and beyond your existing markets.
Creating differentiation (and even new markets) through all the routes available to a company - from identity to brand and packaging to product / service (at the right price-points) - is key and requires strategic design thinking and process.
And for SMEs in particular, pragmatism is vital, especially where the business strategy might actually be, 'stay alive'.
Design strategy must work and be effective in creating the right journey to travel on.