Use SWOT Analysis for Your Next Design Project
SWOT analysis is a useful marketing tool which has been developed to evaluate Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats which may affect a project.
It could be applied to almost every kind of business project because it is really flexible. It could be a useful basis for a strategic plan.
Because an effective design is created not only to be beautiful but also to strike the target and bring a real increase in customer business, this kind of analysis could be really useful to start a design project aimed at the target.
As we have already said SWOT is an acronym which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The analysis of these aspects is the basis for the analysis of business and environmental factors. Let’s take a closer look.
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Strengths and weaknesses are considered internal factors. This means that they are affected by happenings, visions and procedures inside the company (or business).
Strengths: those characteristics which give advantages, also compared to business competitors. The analysis has to highlight internal strengths, such as where the industry excels compared to other industries, and how it is maximizing its resources and products.
Weaknesses: those characteristics have to be considered as disadvantages for the business compared to its competitors. Improvements need to be made but for small business even being aware of these obscure points could be important enough.
Opportunities and threats are considered to be external factors. This means that these elements don’t come from the business, they are dependent on the environment. On the other hand they may greatly affect the objective achievement in a positive or negative way so they need to be analyzed in order to try to have control over them.
Opportunities: positive external chances to improve the business and achieve a better result. The opportunities component should list how the business could grow or expand to foreseeing how to act in the near, medium and far future.
Threats: aspects which may have a negative influence and create trouble for the achievement of the expected results. Outside forces could affect the business, less demand in the market, new legislations and economy inflection.
SWOT Analysis for Designers
Many marketing analysis starts with a detailed profile of the competitors. This is useful to study the referring environment, the successes achieved by the main competitors and, if that is the case, their weaknesses and mistakes and how to learn from them and improve the results.
It’s obvious that marketing analysis has a cost but it is a very important and necessary step to take because managerial situations can be visualized, foreseeing dynamic performance towards the objective.
Accordingly with the information collected during the conducted marketing research the designer will be able to highlight the client needs and create an effective design campaign aware of what it needs to be considered as strength and weakness points.
Prior to starting a SWOT analysis the designer has to compile a short list of questions to submit to the client in order to have a complete basis to start the project. You need to collect existent institutional materials, vision, mission, values, evaluate every statement released and everything you can find on the topic.
Start asking the client those things and have a scheme in the collected answers. Then fill in again the questions with YOUR answers on the topic, strategic ideas, experience, innovation, in a kind of brainstorming.
What You Should Ask the Client Before Setting Up the Project
SWOT analysis starts with an objective to reach and continues identifying all those factors, favorable or opposite, that may occur in the effort of achieving it. The method is useful to develop strategies, making choices and writing the operative plan of the project.
In order to fill in a good SWOT analysis list you should consider the aspects here below:
- Which area of business involves your customer activity?
- What is its main product?
- Which local area he covers?
The analysis is not limited to profit-seeking activities. SWOT analysis may be used in any decision-making project. Surely you are going to be paid for your graphic design work, so from your point of view it IS a commercial activity but, during this phase, what is really important is the core activity which you are going to represent through your design project.
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- What are the aims of your client?
- What are his expectations from your work?
- Which kind of products web or print, he is looking for?
- Why he think these could be effective?
- When a desired end-state has been defined?
- Is your client business a brand new activity?
- Has he already set up a business plan?
- What about a marketing plan?
- Does he have his own strategies?
- Has he studied his competitors?
- Does he already have advertising documents (brochure, print advertising, website)?
Your Client’s SWOTs
Once you have collected all data from your client and his business background you can now start to have a look at more specific SWOT points.
Here below is a list of points to clarify in order to properly get all those elements needed to compose your designing project:
- What do you do well?
- What are your advantages?
- What relevant resources do you have?
- What of those you offer other people can be seen as an advantage?
Example: The core business of your customer is to sell personal care natural products. How would he reply to the previous questions?
Qns: What do you do well?
Ans: I sell natural soaps and detergents which don’t use surfactants rich in allergenic factors.
Qns: What are your advantages?
Ans: My detergents are an advantage: for customers because of the reduced risk of allergies, for the environment because they are natural and without surfactants and this contributes to reducing environmental damage and contributes to reducing recycling by selling them unpacked.
Qns: What relevant resources do you have?
Ans: We are cleaning experts, we have worked for years in the detergent industry and are aware of the market. In addition we have a good network of producers so we are able to contain costs.
Qns: What of those you offer other people can be seen as an advantage?
Ans: Good quality, low cost detergents, a shop opened also during lunch time situated near an area of offices.
With these questions and answers you, as designer, have to add your own consideration, so:
- Visit your client website as if you are a common user.
- Screen all advertising materials and try to catch your client style and desire. At the same time try to understand if it is effective or it needs to be strongly revised or just improved.
- Use what he said about himself to evaluate existent company literature and check if the documents are effective.
- How can you improve your offerings?
- What do you do poorly or not at all?
- Is your communication up to date?
- Is your budget availability enough to cover all advertising needs?
- Is the existent communication too old to be considered?
- The customer wants an advertising campaign as a Multinational Company but, as a matter of fact, it is a single shop in a residential quarter. Does he know what he is asking for? Does he have the budget?
- How your work can give additional value?
- Which are the best opportunities in the near future?
- What are the market trends?
- What is the best period of the year to offer your services?
- What niche can you try to attack and cover with your offerings?
- May you enlarge your business area?
- How can I increase the popularity of my customer business?
- Can I submit to my client an alternative way to promote his business?
- This could be considered the best period to start a promotional project considering the months of strength of the customer?
- What obstacles, economical, coming from the market or from competitors, are you going to face?
- What is the worst period to promote the activity and why?
- New technologies may affect business trends?
- What new products are coming out on the market and that could be considered as a threat for the business?
And finally your evaluation:
- My client’s products are going to be replaced in a short time by others much more innovative?
- Considering the period of the year and the new products from competitors, it could be the case to promote one of the better products over another?
Submit the questions to your customer then add your considerations for your internal use only and reorganize everything in a chart.
SWOT Analysis Chart
Everything can be summarized in a chart. A SWOT analysis chart is usually represented as a square composed of four sections. Collected opportunities, strengths, threats and weaknesses are listed in each box. The strengths are listed on the top-left and the weaknesses are listed in the top-right. The opportunities are listed in the bottom-left and the threats are listed in the bottom-right.
The squares may be inscribed themselves in another square which describes the four SWOT boxes horizontally, internal on the top and external on the bottom, and vertically, positive on the left and negative on the right.
All these aspects will be helpful to outline what your client really needs more than what he is asking for.
Why Should a Designer Consider all These Aspects?
You are maybe asking to yourself: “WHY is this important for me? Who cares? The client asked for a website and this is what I’m going to do for him”.
This is a wrong approach to the client needs.
This is why:
- Your client could be an expert in his field of action but YOU are the designer and the expert in this field, that’s why he is asking for your service. You have to provide all your knowledge to achieve his expected goals.
- Using these tools you increase the probability of finding a lack in the project BEFORE you have finished a failure.
- You can better focus on the goal and find that it can better be achieved using other more suitable designing tools and propose them to the client.
- If you correctly do your work and submit your analysis and suggestions to the client and HE stays stuck to his own idea you can say "I told you so" (I know that is a poor satisfaction).
Think Strategically to Maximize SWOT Points
Once the SWOT chart has been filled in properly you should stick to the guidelines that it suggests.
On the other hand the method doesn’t have been seen as a mere list of weaknesses and opportunities. The list must be applied in a critical way to create a winning project plan.
Offering your services you always have to consider that showing to your client a complete outline of his business may change his expectations and priorities, also on the basis of his money efforts.
By the way, also once the project has been approved you always have to consider that objectives may change along the road. The preparation of strategic resources and ideas could be revised while you are working on it and you may need to adapt to the new situation.
How SWOT Analysis Can Improve Your Business
You may think that analyzing all these aspects is a waste of time. Every freelancer has to deal with a lack of time and short deadlines and every single hour gained is a precious gift.
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The main point is that you are not going to waste time by analyzing your customer’s business but, on the contrary, you are getting chance to improve and make your future work easier and faster.
Once you have analyzed the client’s business the main part of the job is done. You may have to revise some aspects but you’ll have some aspects clear which will be useful for your next work. If you have prepared all the analysis to release , for example, a website, it will be easy to create a banner or a paper advertising or even a brochure to print out because you will already know what to say and how to move in that market.
You have to consider this analysis as a necessary exercise that will improve your evaluation capacity. This will help you with your future clients and projects. Focusing the main important points you will be able to submit more effective design projects in less time developing operative strategies useful to your clients as well as to yourself.
To sum up, why doing analysis before a design project is so relevant?
- To develop new strategies or revise the old ones.
- To establish success factors that may help your job helping you identify the areas that need improvements.
- To prepare valuable reasons able to support your choices.
- To save time in your future projects.
How do you explore opportunities and identify weaknesses? Do you use any marketing tool to maximize your workflow? What is your to-do list addressing the major points in each SWOT category?