What’s the collective noun for a group of design strategists? A Venn? An interrogation? A planner-splain? Whatever, there are many more of them working in design agencies than there used to be. Why has this happened? Does their greater presence signify an era of smarter work or a shift to less creative freedom and more furrowed brows?
When there’s still debate over even such basics as the difference between a planner and a strategist – and how very like planners/strategists to noodle on this point – any perspective can only be subjective, but here’s my take, based on more than three decades in our industry.
Today I sell myself as a ‘design strategist’, but I spent the first half of my career with the title ‘designer’. I was the kind who carried a mild chip against planners that sat somewhere between ‘those who can – do, those who can’t – teach’, and ‘does anyone need another smart alec telling us what to do?’
My prejudices were partly based on reading an account of ad agency CDP, where one creative noted how wonderful things were “before planners took themselves seriously and took all the fun out of advertising”. He told of how, following one successful intervention from a planner at a key moment, “many more planners appeared, and darkness stalked the land”. Words to haunt me in my later role.