Research is intrinsic to what we do

We research ways to manage creative businesses better.

We know building a sustainable, profitable design studio means continually reinventing who you are and what you do. And we know from experience it's difficult to find the time to work on your business when you are answerable to short-term client demands.

That's where DBC can help. We've now time to gather, analyse and share information we think valuable to other Australian creatives.

I love the work you guys are doing for our industry. I strongly encourage anyone wanting to build their creative business and improve their bottom line to take advantage of the workshops and consulting services provided by DBC.’

Mike Beck, Managing Director, Fluid

Continued and sustained professional development is crucial for any industry … I’ve found my happy place in the Design Business Council. Thank you Greg Branson and Carol Mackay for very happy informative day. 

Stephanie Bradshaw, Freelance Creative Director and Creative Leadership Consultant

The DBC Design Maturity Report

Design maturity describes the design practices and processes of an organisation to reliably and sustainably produce products or services. A number of global research projects looked at design maturity, but it’s not often been researched in Australia.

In 2019 we conducted self-funded research exploring links between the mature use of design and the success of Australian private companies. The research had two steps: defining the design practices and processes within a value chain then rank them according to their design maturity in a design ladder.

The design value chain

We used a value chain based on the Michael E Porter Value Chain model.

A value chain is a range of activities done by a business to create value. Porter proposed a general-purpose value chain to examine activities, and how they’re connected. The performance value chain activities determines costs; affects profits and helps understand the sources of value in a business.

Porter’s Value Chain focuses on systems (rather than departments or cost centres) and how inputs (raw materials) are changed into the outputs (products).

Porter described a chain of nine activities common to all businesses, and divided them into primary and support activities.

We adapted Porter’s value chain to investigate how design adds value for a business. To make it more relevant to the Australian design industry we added Research, Design and Development.

DBC Design Ladder

The design ladder

We adapted the design ladder developed by the Danish Design Centre by adding a fifth step: integrates design into the whole company.

A design ladder is a diagnostic tool used to measure design maturity by:

  1. understanding the total use of design in a business
  2. creating a common language for strategic design use and
  3. aligning design investment with business strategy.

The higher a company was ranked on the Design Ladder, the greater strategic importance they attributed to design. It meant they not only embedded design throughout the business, they introduced it early, used it strategically and understood the value it delivered.

Our research

In 2019 we published the DBC Design Maturity Report and shared our insights in a series of workshops in Melbourne and Sydney.

Ten Australian design leaders were invited to participate in the research alongside one of their key clients. Firstly we explained the aim of the research and the value to the Australian design industry, then we shared a summary they could use with their client. The summer explained the research methodology, time commitment and value expectations.

Research was conducted in face-to-face meetings; firstly with the designers, then with clients. Often further inhouse research was needed to complete the information.

The findings and recommendations were published, then converted to a workshop to help designers measure their clients’ design maturity and turn that into new business development. For a copy of the report or more info email Greg.

“A truly fascinating piece of work. Breaking the impacts of design into various functions of the selected businesses – e.g logistics – as opposed to taking a macro view on whether a company does or doesn’t design well, was very creative and insightful. As are the recommendations you provide for how to better incorporate design into each of those business functions.”

“As a start-up we have taken a design centric approach so it was good to get validation and see where else we can add design.”

“Please don’t release this to our peers. We want the chance to implement it with all our clients before our peers get to it :).”


A COVID19 snapshot of the Australian design industry

We all went into lockdown and conversation turned to ‘what will happen next?’. We were not sure what came after ‘now’ but we were absolutely sure the more knowledge we had about ‘now’ the better prepared we would be for ‘next’. And we know research leads to knowledge.

Knowledge brings clarity. Clarity helps us make better decisions faster.

For this research we collaborated with Streamtime and Never Not Creative to run a short, sharp survey to capture the ‘now’ feeling of Australian creative business owners in early 2020. We asked what’s working, what’s not.

This research is yours. Our aim is to share – as much as possible – the ways that we are all trying to survive during this time. From proactive, creative strategies to incisive pragmatic decision making. The more we can share, the more we can hopefully get through this together.

It is well worth a read. Download it here.

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