Mature strategic design studio

Building a mature, strategic design studio

Attaining high levels of strategic maturity in a design studio is no easy task. A studio that wants to achieve this must see strategy as an ongoing process, a long-term effort to both improve its performance but also add value for clients. To achieve this there are four aspects to consider:

Strategic alignment. Every effort must be focused directly on achieving real business results. Studios with mature strategic programs nearly always design their strategy to included both organisational (internal) goals and competitive (external) goals in their strategic planning processes — and they compel formal engagement between the two.

For example an organisational strategy to review pricing each year should link to a competitive strategy that examines competitor pricing and how best to explain design value to clients.

Leadership and staff development. A successful strategy program depends on management effectively communicating its values throughout the studio. It also relies on the continuing professional development of team member’s who understand the business and can further strengthen its capability.

For example a management strategy to communicate that they value the work of their teams would be supported by a strategy for analysing and helping fulfil each team members professional development needs.

Performance measurement. Accurately measuring the results of the strategy in terms that show its impact on the business is critical. Setting milestones for measurement and reporting give KPIs that can be used to assess the results and pivot where necessary.

For example a professional development strategy could be linked to measurement of improved productivity, the introduction of new services or an improvement in team morale.

Organisational structure and formal processes. Our work with hundreds of design studios found that creating frameworks, tools, and methodologies is necessary in developing a studio’s capability to respond to change.
For example new business development strategy would be supported by the development of team skills using human centred design tools such as empathy mapping or customer journey mapping.


At a time when all design studios are being reshaped by changing business conditions, we need to define strategies clearly, and then design, implement, and maintain a constant review of our strategies. Studios with this capability will be best equipped to create innovative new services that can build competitive advantage.

The keys to long-term success are in developing strategies to improve agility, responsiveness to markets and customers, flexibility in partnership and collaboration opportunities.

You want more?

The Design Business Model Canvas is an ideal method to get organisational and competitive strategies developed for your studio.

Greg Branson

Contact Greg Branson if you would like to learn more about the many programs the DBC offers.

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Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.