Sorts of design knowledge

7 sorts of design knowledge to accomplish design work

Design is indispensable in a rapidly changing world where organizations need to catch up, keep up, and move up. This post describes seven sorts of design knowledge that determine the value, impact, and performance of design.

Designers continually develop knowledge with customers, commissioners, users, fellow designers, partners, and other stakeholders. They acquire, create, and share knowledge of different sorts. This post explains which sorts of design knowledge exist that a team needs to accomplish design work.

Sorts of design knowledge

A team’s organization consists of the following sorts of design knowledge and their interrelationships (see figure):

  • Strategy: the plan to accomplish design goals.
  • Structure: the way of organizing design work.
  • Systems: processes and procedures of design.
  • Style: the way designers approach design.
  • Specialisms: fields of specialization of designers.
  • Skills: talents and abilities of designers.
  • Shared values: accepted values, norms, and standards for designing.
Sorts of design knowledge
Sorts of design knowledge and their interrelationships

These seven sorts almost entirely correspond with the seven internal factors in the McKinsey 7S Model. Other points of departure are conceivable, but the McKinsey 7S Model applies well in practice. Furthermore, many managers know this model. For a brief introduction to this model, see, for instance, Strategic Management Insight or Investopedia.

In practice, the two sorts Systems and Style may be hard to distinguish. For instance, a design team will likely define style as the processes and procedures the team members have agreed to follow. In such cases, you may conveniently combine the two sorts into one sort, System.

Framework for design knowledge

The seven sorts of design knowledge and their interrelationships form a framework that can be used to:

  • Analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a design team.
  • Search for knowledge that is of interest to design work.
  • Embed design knowledge in a team’s organization.