What is a mature business

The idea of business maturity comes from a U.S. Defence Department model to assess the capability of businesses supplying to the U.S. Government. A maturity model is a set of structured levels starting from from ad hoc practices, through to full optimisation of the business processes. The 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 business and how they add to the bottom line performance.

It is an area lacking in Australian business as reported in Marketing Magazine.

As that article reports there have been a number of global research projects that look at design maturity, but until now it’s not been done in Australia.

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 companies.

The research builds on two design value indexes that demonstrate how listed businesses have outperformed the market through the use of design.

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 which measures 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.

The DBC has conducted similar research with Australian private companies.

The DBC research used 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 in which value chain activities are performed impacts on costs and drives profits. It can help 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 (raw materials) are changed into the outputs (products) 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 have also added R&D to the activities to develop the Design Value Chain.


Each activity is examined against set criteria that define the design practices and processes of an organisation.

The Design Ladder

Having defined the design practices and processes it was necessary to give them a scoring 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 varying use of design in businesses.

The Design Ladder is based on the premise that there is a positive link between the use of design methods and the businesses overall business success.

To explain how design use can be measured we have adapted the design ladder to five steps.


DBC Design Ladder

The five steps of the design ladder

The 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 they 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 :).”

Want to know how to use the Design Maturity approach?

The Design Maturity program offers you the knowledge and tools to examine a clients’ design maturity. You can convert this understanding into new business.

If you would like to discuss how the Design Maturity program can help you contact:

Greg Branson on 0412 762 045 or email.