Many aspects of strategic importance can be influenced through effective use of design. An integrated, holistic application of skilled design resources can make important contributions to competitive advantage. Identifying such contributions elicits a framework useful for clarifying the concept of ‘strategic design’ in general terms, and for describing design’s use in specific organizations. This paper presents such a framework and descriptions of two contrasting firms, based on interviews with designers and others in design-related roles in each. These demonstrate differing approaches to the use of design as a strategic resource, and how such a framework helps identify and describe them.