What is strategic design and why is it useful to companies? We asked Francesco Zurlo, who signed ‘Compendium’, the book for the forty years of Hangar Design Group

The difference between strategic design and product design is subtle but fundamental. Francesco Zurlo, who in 2015 founded the CI.Lab at Poli.design and is co-director of the Master in Strategic Design, explained it to us. The pretext is the release of Compendium, the book published by Rizzoli which tells the story of Hangar Design Group.

"Strategic design is a design attitude that accelerates the evolution and growth of brands thanks to a multidisciplinary approach . He works at the same time on product, communication, retail, co-branding and brand identity, also imagining to build a corporate cultural abacus" explains Zurlo.

The project becomes a part of the UX, on a scale that covers every part of the business process. It is a little Italian approach, but there are illustrious examples. Hangar Design Group is one of the agencies that has worked harder and better to break the boundaries of the design disciplines as we understand them in the area of made in Italy.

The story of Hangar Design Group is simple and beautiful

Francesco Zurlo retraces it in the Compendium, just released for the Rizzoli types. Alberto Bovo and Sandro Manente graduated in the 1980s from the IUAV in Venice, a university rooted in the tradition of Italian design. And instead of starting to do the architects decide to ransgredire the boundary between design, communication and marketing.

The Veneto, their territory, is a productive context in full development and well vascularized. The relaunch of manufacturing, innovation and technology is continuous, thanks to an economic history rooted in the idea of ​​product growth and value. The two new architects understand that these lively companies are also receptive. And they need help to grow. It's not just about products. Ideas are needed to evolve, to make business strategies that are still too local to scale. Thus was born Hangar Design Group.

What are the tools of strategic design?

"Giving up being present with name and surname is already the beginning of a different model of intervention" explains Francesco Zurlo. "The idea behind strategic design is that of teamwork. Different skills confront the brand to make its DNA their own, transform it and make it grow".

The limit of an authorial vision, which is that of the product designer, is overcome to work synergistically on several fronts. Where and how it is most necessary and natural in the path of the brand. Defining a brand identity is the first step to understand in which direction to grow and what are the right strategies to do so. "The impact of the project on innovation is measurable through the actual growth of an entire company, it cannot be measured on single factors".

What is the difference between product design and strategic design?

"Strategic design is not self-referenced and is not based on the personal vision of a single professional. Without detracting from the work of designers, sometimes there is a need for a broader vision and an approach in which different disciplines are intertwined in the development of much more complex and complete projects than a collection or product".

Yet the role of the art director tries always corresponds a lot to this description... "Not really. The key thing is the set of looks. And deep listening to the company, which thus has the opportunity to express its language in a managerial and not just creative context. And a strong leadership, which allows the constructive synthesis of a multiplicity of voices". As if to say that creativity needs good managers to make it impact.

What does strategic design do then?

"There is really no strategic design. There are strategic gestures and actions, which begin with the dialogue that is established with the company. Sometimes designers are unable to tune in, and therefore to work in a targeted and productive way, because the exercise of listening concerns every part of the organization chart. The relationship between design and companies must create a system made up of a multiplicity of tools. Often it starts with communication and brand identity. But then we come to products, retail, co-branding. Until the construction of a cultural abacus that projects the strategy not only towards growth, but towards brand evolution".

On 23 October, on the occasion of the Milan Design Film Festival 2021 (read here), the docu-film Hangar Reloaded will be screened at the Franco Parenti Theater in Milan, which tells the story of the journey, energy and poetics of Hangar Design Group.