What is the difference between a strategist and a designer?

To answer this question one must consider the light bulb.

When asked the question, “how do we sell more light bulbs?” The strategists will delve into a well define process and assist you to define what a light bulb is, clarify what its purpose is, assess the competitive environment and generate a series of insights on how and why people use light bulbs.

If he or she is a good strategist, they will create a differentiated market positioning for the light bulb. Most likely create a packaging solution that makes the product stand out and advise the ad agency to create some disruptive communication based on the strategists insights.

If he or she is an exceptional strategist, they will through their assessment of the competitive landscape have understood the competitors in the segment, seen an obvious opportunities to acquire a competitor and reduce the cost to service the market the economies of scale achieved through synergy, not just in fact meeting the brief by selling more light bulbs but also increasing the profit per unit.

The designer having no real interest in selling light bulbs would ask, “does it have to be a light bulb?” Light bulbs use up too much electricity, they are inefficient, they are made with mercury, therefore they cannot be recycled and are in fact bad for the environment. Even the new energy efficient bulbs can cause anxiety, migraines and their over utilization in domestic and commercial environment can contribute to increased propensity towards ADD.

The designer would embark upon a project to reinvent the light bulb, consider the ecosystem the light bulb exists in and look at ways of ensuring that those that have no lights might benefit from this rethink of the light bulb, its purpose and role in society. The designer would prototype and developed several solutions, ensuring that the revised light bulb, probably wasn’t a light bulb at all but a solar powered energy efficient LED device that could be used in any environment by anyone with or without access to electricity.

That designer might have been Olafur Eliasson and he might have invented the Little Sun.