Before we talk about design maturity we need to talk about design, today, design means something completely different than it did 20 years ago. Design has grown and matured to be an integral part of any business. Understandably, this didn’t just happen overnight, but it was a quicker process than you would think.
Consumers began to see value in products that looked good, ergonomics started to influence physical design, and there was generally a better understanding of consumer purchasing behaviours.
Businesses are at varying stages of their design journey: some are just beginning, some haven’t started at all, others have gone through countless iterations and are now in a place where design is at the forefront of their company.
Today, we’re diving into what it means for your business in 2023.
What does design maturity mean?
Essentially, the level at which design is operating within your business.
It’s often described as a journey, rather than a specific end point. Design is introduced into an existing organisation and grows over time and becomes more sophisticated and integral to the organisation. A mature design company has internalised and established proven design processes that it has honed over many years.
Why is design maturity important?
In a 2018 report, McKinsey found that most companies do not know what to ask and expect of their design leadership. This often means that design processes are being used, but rarely to their full extent.
Having a good understanding of design maturity helps you understand how you can outperform your expectations and come up with your best work. You can set yourself up for success by finding a good match for you and by understanding where you can best put your energy.
From a business perspective, design maturity helps companies to recognise how design can add value to products.
Key benefits include:
- Cost savings
- Faster time to market
- Higher levels of customer satisfaction
- Better product usability
- Higher levels of productivity
How is design maturity measured?
It can be tricky to identify the level within your organisation.
We’re not looking at numbers or quantifiable data, it’s more about the ways design is influencing your business and processes.
To measure, you need to look at how design is influencing the following:
A company that only uses design processes to create aesthetics would be the lowest stages of design maturity, simply using design to “make things pretty”. A company that uses design processes to influence culture at an organisational level would be considered highly design mature.
How can you increase design maturity in your organisation?
Once you have identified your organisation’s level, you can start working on increasing it. The aim is to create a design culture throughout the organisation to ensure a holistic experience that creates great products.
In order to increase design maturity, you need to look at its key components:
- People – An organisation needs to have a dedicated design team as a function to serve the whole enterprise. There are people who do not actively “design,” but who are in charge of thinking about the experience at the company as a whole and in connection.
- Process – The product creation process is well laid out. Start with user research, make time for proper design processes, allow for user testing and incorporate the design team at all stages.
- Budget – The process comes with clearly defined budgets for design activities that are generous enough to allow for the discovery, prototyping, testing, and iterations. The design team owns its budget and has control over it.
- Metrics – The design team does not act on their gut instinct, but has clear metrics in place for what a great experience delivers. These are a mix of customer-centric and business-centric metrics.
- Collaboration – The design team needs to be integrated within the entire organisation. They need to form great relationships with product teams and senior management to build a full understanding of the benefits of design with everyone.
- Recognition – Design-mature companies recognise what design can deliver and where it can add value. They understand that having a design leader at the table is invaluable when discussing product pipelines, service design maturity model, company strategy, and overall organisational vision.
The further you can get down this list, the higher your level is.