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The Value of Design Maturity in the marketplace is influenced by emerging and evolving needs. Two years ago, the conversation around the design was not whether it was valuable but where else the practice could be applied within an organisation. 

Now we are entering a new phase in the conversation around the value of design. So, markets feel pressure from inflation, changing customer needs, and political forces worldwide, businesses have had to respond quickly. Companies must be effective and efficient to ensure they are utilising their time and resources to maximise profits.

Again design is part of this critical conversation. After explosive growth and expansion, the industry is going through a contraction. Organisations understand the importance of metrics and measurement. And now, the questions are, how do we measure the value of design? Should it be evaluated like traditional business metrics such as sales, net profit, and gross profit? In this way, design is critical for businesses. However, the metrics by which it is measured is being re-evaluated. 

In an environment where businesses must balance their financial growth with pressing social issues such as diversity and inclusion, the argument can be made that design provides value outside traditional financial metrics.

Understanding design maturity is essential

Therefore, before an organisation can understand what value design brings to its bottom line, it must assess where and how design is applied within the organisation.

Design maturity is the level at which design operates within a business. Invisionapp produced a report on this topic: The New Design Frontier in 2019. They conducted research with 2,200 organisations in 23 different industries and 77 different countries. They discovered that companies with a high degree of design leadership and design maturity, on average, make four times more revenue, products that are five times cheaper to launch and get to market roughly six times faster. The valuation of companies with high design maturity is 26 times higher than companies with low design maturity.

The value that a design team brings to an organisation, especially in today’s turbulent times, has been further established by the changes in the world over the past three years. The challenge now is ensuring that organisations understand how design delivers value for them and at what level of maturity they are operating within the business.

And while this is a question for organisations, the answer exists within the individual. To deliver impact, each designer must know where they sit on the scale of using design maturely within projects and methods of working in the organisation.

Each individual must understand two key pillars of their relationship with design maturity. They must understand:

  • Culture – diversity and inclusion, customer-centricity, and collaborative ways of working
  • Execution – embedding design methodologies into business practices

At Echos, we understand that design is leadership. Each designer must be responsible for their ability to create positive ripples of change and transformation in the world through the work they do.

Part of ongoing leadership responsibility is adhering to principles of continuous improvement. And setting career and personal goals around where you are now and where you would like to be. We can honestly evaluate where we are and set a clear course toward learning new skills that will benefit ourselves, our work and our communities. 

Design Culture

It is critical to understand how designers work with the values of design, empathy, collaboration and experimentation in their projects. In order to grow as a leader it is important to understand and embrace the full potential of the cultural aspects of design. 

There are three tiers of design culture inter-personal, societal, and organisational:

  • Inter-personal – understanding whom to include in projects, including community members, customers, users, and co-workers. 
  • Societal – research current trends and gather data to understand the problem landscape.
  • Organisational – Using inclusive practices to produce interdisciplinary work reflecting the inputs and insights across the whole business.

Within the context of a project, it is essential to consider the following aspects when applying design:

  • Seeking the direct involvement of the target audience/customer/user in developing new solutions and improving existing products and services.
  • Involve stakeholders and/or co-workers from different areas and positions, from inside and outside the organisation, in developing new solutions.
  • Research the behaviour of current and potential users to make decisions about new projects, products and services.
  • Accept sets backs as part of the innovation process.

These are only some aspects to consider when applying culture to design. In our work with accelerating design maturity and leadership within organisations, we have identified various ways mature professionals approach to culture. In addition to culture, how design is executed within projects and organisations must also be considered equally.

Design Execution

A mature design leader must understand how their work impacts their customers, partners, and business. It is your responsibility to ensure a project is completed with rigour, sets clear goals and uses business metrics to define the impact and value of the project. This goes beyond traditional project management. 

Mature design professionals utilise innovation, integration, and validation by:

  • Using customer feedback to improve the business, product or services.
  • Sharing insights, survey results and user feedback with the stakeholders in the company or projects they work on.
  • Use design thinking and other innovation-oriented approaches (such as lean, design sprint, agile, etc.) in day-to-day business activities.
  • Integrate people from all walks of life to be included in the creation and testing phases of a project

As with the cultural aspects, design execution is critical to growing maturity within the design practice. And just as with culture, execution must be elevated and developed within organisations at every level. This is how career growth and design maturity go hand in hand. As designers become more mature and apply their learnings, their careers, teams, and organisations reap the benefits. 

Career Growth and Design Maturity

Setting clear professional career goals to grow to the next level is essential. Design leaders must leverage the relationship between the value design provides to our careers and the growth of our organisation within every project they undertake. 

It is also vital to take design within organisations to new levels within a rapidly changing industry. This isn’t easy to access without independent assistance. This is why we have created a design maturity self-assessment. This assessment establishes where each designer is on their growth journey as they work towards new leadership goals. To understand more clearly where you sit on the scale of design maturity, take our Design Maturity Self Assessment.

When the world is constantly changing, so should each leader on their journey. We look forward to sharing more insights as they become available in our Design Maturity Self Assessment.


Megan Davis

Originally from Michigan, now living and creating in Melbourne, Megan considers herself a citizen of the world. She has been discovering stories since 2012, specialising in narrative strategy and storytelling for businesses that are daring to create new realities and futures.
She has traveled the world conducting workshops in New York, London, Berlin, and most recently Lisbon at the House of Beautiful Business in 2019 to teach people how to connect with storytelling to deliver strategic business results.
Putting empathy first in business and life, she loves sharing her knowledge by speaking, training, and consulting on projects that are changing the world.

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