Over thirty years ago Mackay Branson design was founded. It was a traditional graphic design studio based on one client, one chair and a pasteboard. (One chair because the serviced office could only fit one chair at one time).
From there, we built a sustainable, profitable design studio, continually reinventing who we were and what we did. We deliberately sought clients not currently using design – clients that for whatever reason, were ignorant of the value design could add to their organisation. That’s where the nucleus of our research started.
Fast forward a number of years and Carol and Greg co-founded the Design Business Council – created to bridge the gap between design and business. We now have time to develop research to help designers demonstrate the value design can bring to a business.
The Design Maturity Report
What is a mature business?
Business maturity modelling derived from a U.S. Defence Department model to assess the capability of businesses supplying to the U.S. Government.
The maturity model describes how well the behaviours, practices and processes of an organisation can reliably and sustainably produce products or services.
Design Maturity describes the design practices and processes of an organisation to reliably and sustainably produce products or services. It is an area of research lacking in Australian business as reported in Marketing Magazine. A number of global research projects look at design maturity, but until now it’s not been done in Australia.
The Design Business Council research builds on two existing design value indexes:
- The US based Design Management Institute developed the Design Value Index based on a portfolio of 16 publicly traded stocks from companies considered to be “design-centric”.
- The UK Design Council developed the Design Index to measure the relationship between the effective use of design and share price performance. Its key finding is that the share prices of design-aware companies out-perform the FTSE 100 and FTSE All Share indices by more than 200 per cent. A full copy of the report can be downloaded here.
Measuring design maturity in Australian businesses
The Design Business Council (DBC) has published the Design Maturity Report based on research into the link between the mature use of design and the success of Australian private companies. The research was based on the Michael E Porter Value Chain to examine discrete activities within a business.
A value chain is a set of activities that a business implements to create value for its customers. Porter proposed a general-purpose value chain that companies can use to examine all of their activities, and see how they’re connected. The way value chain activities are performed determines costs; affects profits, and helps understand the sources of value in an business.
Elements in Porter’s Value Chain
Rather than looking at departments or accounting cost centres, Porter’s Value Chain focuses on systems, and how inputs are changed into the outputs purchased by consumers. Using this viewpoint, Porter described a chain of nine activities common to all businesses, and he divided them into primary and support activities.
The DBC has adapted this model to look at how design adds value for a business. We’ve also added R,D&D to develop the Design Value Chain.
The Design Ladder
The next stage after defining the design practices and processes is to score them according to their design maturity.
That’s where we introduced the Design Ladder.
The Design Ladder was developed by the Danish Design Centre in 2001 as a model for illustrating the mature use of design in businesses.
The ladder is a diagnostic tool used to measure design maturity by:
- understanding the total use of design in a business
- creating a common language for strategic design use and
- aligning design investment with business strategy.
The higher a company was ranked on the Design Ladder, the greater strategic importance they attributed to design. The Design Business Council adapted the original concept by adding a fifth step to the ladder.
The Design Business Council Design Maturity Report
Ten Australian design leaders were invited to participate in the research alongside one of their key clients.
The Design Business Council conducted an inhouse workshop with the design studio owner and their team, outlining the aim of the research and the value to the Australian design industry.
An executive summary was provided to design studio owners to share with their client. The summary explained the research methodology, time commitment and value expectations.
The Design Maturity research was conducted in face-to-face meetings; firstly with the design studio owners, and then with clients. Often further research within the organisation was needed to complete the information.
The Design Business Council funded the research. There was no cost to the design studio owner nor the client.
What participants said
“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.”
“This approach aligns extremely well with the way our business is run. Great to see the opportunities for design.”
“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 :).”