A new way to find new business.

We’ve uncovered research published nearly 35 years ago that was ground-breaking then, and just as relevant now. It’s used successfully across many industry sectors, and studied in most universities. It’s just never been used in design.

We found it when researching new ways for designers to find new business. Ways to get more work from existing clients, as well as new work from potential clients.

It’s an existing methodology that, with a little bit of tweaking, works brilliantly to identify where an organisation currently uses design, where it doesn’t and what impact it has.

The Porter Value Chain

The Porter Value Chain was devised in 1985 by an economist named – funnily enough – Michael Porter. It’s familiar to anyone with an MBA – just not commonly known in design. Nearly 35 years later it’s still highly valued, especially in today’s saturated market.

The value chain depicts an organisation as a series of activities buying and using resources (such as people, materials, admin and management). Porter examined how to add value (profit) to each activity.

That’s where design comes in.

Design has a strong role in adding value:
It can improve communication with suppliers in inbound and outbound logistics.
It can improve UX and CX in service.
It can streamline the initiation and training of new employees in HR.
And design can increase usability of forms and contracts in the procurement process.

How designers can use the DBC design value chain

We evolved Porter’s tool by adding research, design and development and renaming it the Design Value Chain. Then we used the activities to identify specifically where design could add value to each one.

The more value an organisation creates, the more profitable it will be. And when you provide more value to your customers, you build competitive advantage.

Our design maturity research

Our research, based on the Porter Value Chain, was conducted with 10 Australian designers and their clients. We used the design value chain, together with the Danish design ladder, to assess and measure how organisations used design, and what impact that had.

We’ll be sharing the results shortly, but suffice to say, it’s staggering the amount of work being left on the table.

Take away

The ability to talk about the Design Value Chain to clients – especially clients in the c-suite – is the ability to demonstrate how design adds value.


Carol Mackay

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Carol Mackay is a graphic designer with 30+ years experience managing Mackay Branson design, a successful Melbourne design studio co-founded with Greg Branson.

In 2018 Carol pivoted from client-driven work to (re)join Greg at the Design Business Council. There she uses her experience to help designers build robust businesses, and help businesses integrate, and profit from, design. Carol’s prime skill has been her ability to translate difficult to understand or complex messages through design. She believes design brings clarity to complex issues. From clarity comes understanding, and understanding leads to knowledge.

In 2018 she co-founded the Clear Communication Awards, and the Business of Design Week. Both will be run in 2019

Carol has the mindset of a designer and the focus of a business-owner. Her special skill is comprehension – the ability to listen, understand the situation and use design to translate complex messages into plain language.

An archive of her design work at mbdesign.com.au.
Her current work can be viewed at designbusinesscouncil.com and designbusinessschool.com.au.

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