Design Strategy:

Leveraging a Concept Vision to Inform Strategic Direction

By: Director of Research and Strategy Carolyn Rose and Senior Design Researcher David McKenzie

At Insight Product Development, we often work with pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers early in the design process to support strategic innovation planning. A critical component to this work is our Strategic Concept Vision, a 2D prototype that depicts a future scenario. This places a yet-to-be-developed product or technology within a relatable context to elicit feedback from prospective end users and decision makers. It also enables our clients to understand potential benefits and unforeseen drawbacks that help inform a business case without the heavier costs associated with R&D.

What is a Strategic Concept Vision?

A Strategic Concept Vision integrates our research, design and engineering capabilities to help our clients and their customers see, evaluate and build upon a prospective future. Simultaneously, we’re weighing critical business and technical factors to help determine overall viability.

The vision is born out of needs-based opportunities identified and informed by our design research or internally by our client. Discovery research is meant to both uncover user-driven opportunities and better understand the current or prospective context of use. Context of use could range from a NICU during feeding time to a microbiology lab receiving samples. Conducting this research will help communicate future scenarios that are both informed and relatable.

A truly effective Strategic Concept Vision strikes a balance between realistic and abstract. A detailed understanding of the context will help tell a story that’s both approachable and believable, while leaving room for interpretation that will encourage audience engagement and active contribution. The fidelity of the concept vision, for this reason, is purposefully low to get to the heart of whether or not the concept is worth pursuing with more focus on the ‘what’ and ‘why’.

If pursued, knowing the ‘how’ plays an equally important role down the road. Reasons to believe (i.e. existing technologies, analog devices, market dynamics, etc.) and anticipated challenges (i.e. organizational hurdles, regulatory pathways, reimbursement models, etc.) are considered with each proposed concept vision to help ensure they can be realized by our clients—either via internal development or acquisition. Evaluating each of these facets in parallel can help inform a roadmap, from ‘quick wins’ to longer-term investments.

Multiple, disparate concept visions may then be introduced to potential end-users and decision makers during qualitative research in order to learn which seem to provide the most value to whom and why. And now, this information can be leveraged to inform strategic direction and next steps, typically down-selection and iterative refinement.

When do we deploy Strategic Concept Visions?

We introduce concept visions well before the commencement of new product development stage gates, often to help set a direction for an NPD initiative. After the business case has been internally developed and vetted, of course. This allows the team to make informed decisions relative to innovation planning, weighing the target markets’ perceptions against critical business and technical factors to help determine overall viability.

Why leverage Strategic Concept Visions?

This tool and the process surrounding it can help optimize value, drive alignment and mitigate risk.

  • Optimize value: By placing a tangible idea in a relatable context, prospective users and decision makers can more readily envision and articulate perceived benefits and perhaps more importantly, tradeoffs. Paring this with the low fidelity nature of our concept vision easily allows for iterative design refinement to both address shortcomings and integrate value-adds.
  • Drive alignment: At this stage of the process, internal buy-in plays a critical role in determining a concept’s future. Distilling an idea to its key attributes with a focus on what they enable (i.e. the user experience) encourages a shared vision and limits opportunities for misinterpretation.
  • Mitigate risk: Getting early ideas in front of users before substantial R&D investment can increase the likelihood of market success and reduce development costs by focusing efforts towards the areas of greatest impact.

We strive to provide actionable outcomes to best serve our clients’ needs. Our Strategic Concept Vision is a powerful means to convey identified user-driven opportunities and help determine which of these opportunities ultimately warrant pursuit. We strongly believe that this approach enables effective and efficient innovation planning—such that larger development investments are grounded in a vetted understanding of market need.

Needing some more information? Check out this article on leveraging design strategy to drive innovation as well as this piece that lays the groundwork on what design strategy means for our clients.