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Design Thesis

When you are working with a client, one of the essential part of research is understanding the competitive environment for that client. So, for example, if you are working for a local clothing company redesigning their brand, it is important to know what trends or innovations are impacting that specific industry. What the major (or minor) competitors will be for your client? What gaps your client may need to fill in the industry. And how you can set your client apart from others in that industry.

While many of the examples we might use to discuss competitive landscapes are drawn from the for profit industry, working for NGOs or not for profits will require you to understand the competitive nature of that industry just as much. How are these companies setting themselves apart from each other? How do their ad campaigns establish themselves against each other?

There are a number of techniques and sources you can draw from to understand the competitive landscape for an industry. This section of the guide will walk you through some of those.   


Web research is another essential part of understanding the competitive landscape of your industry. There are a few main things you look up: 

  • Is your company publicly traded? 
  • Does your company publish an annual report or investor report online?
  • Are there any major press releases from your company online? 

Once you know the major competitors of your company, you will want to explore these questions about those companies as well. 

Social Media

Social Media is an essential part of understanding the competitive landscape and doing a successful environmental scan of an industry. This can especially work when you are looking at design elements associated with your company - how do these companies market or advertise themselves on social media. 

Think about: 

  • How do these companies use social media?
  • Are influencers promoting or using certain companies in their social media profiles?
  • What kind of presence does a company have on social media? Is this a gap you could help fill?