3 Design Maturity Models — What is the Level of Design Maturity in Your Organization?

How is design applied in your own or client’s organization? Does it mean just pretty images, or does it have an effect on a strategic level? Design maturity models can be used to evaluate the level in which your organization is in applying design. They can also pinpoint the steps that could to be taken to get to the next level. In this article, you’ll hear about three different design maturity models and what kind of feedback professional designers gave about them.

Written by Susanna Lähteenmäki, Service Designer at Telia

The three design maturity models — Design Maturity Solar System, Design Ladder, and The Seven Stages to a Design-Based Innovation Culture — were evaluated by the In-house Service Designers Network. It’s a Finnish networking group of service design professionals who are working as in-house designers in different organizations. The network gathers online and face-to-face to discuss design-related topics and spar with each other. It has members from various organizations ranging from e.g. KONE, Migri, Neste, Elisa, Veikkaus, Telia, DNA, Zalando, OP, StoraEnso, Lähitapiola to name a few. During the latest meet-up in May at Telia there were two topics for discussion. First, we talked about the different models and then we discussed about how an organization can get to the next level.

Telia Finland’s CEO Stein-Erik Vellan joined us to welcome everyone to Telia. He also highlighted the importance of creating cross-industry networks such as In-house Service Designers Network to learn from each other.

Telia Finland’s CEO Stein-Erik Vellan welcoming the network.
Telia Finland’s CEO Stein-Erik Vellan welcoming the network. - Image credit: Tommi Luhtala

Presenting The Design Maturity Models

The three different models chosen for the discussion were Maturity Solar System, Design Ladder and The Seven Stages to a Design-based Innovation Culture. They were presented by the lovely Lotta Salminen, who works as a Service Designer at Telia and is also the Chapter Coordinator of Service Design Network (SDN) Finland.

Design Maturity Solar System is a model created by InVision. It focuses on understanding the qualities of high-performing design organizations and splits companies to levels based on their activities and opinions in relation to design. It also provides insights on how to evolve and get to the next step.

The Design Ladder has been created by the Danish Design Centre. Its goal is to illustrate and rate a company’s level of applying design by four steps. An extended version of the Design Ladder includes additional levels for taking systemic change and culture into account.

Seven Stages to a Design-based Innovation Culture is a model that has been presented by Aviv Katz in SDN’s Touchpoint Vol. 7 №2 (available for SDN members). The model is based on how the organization acts and what is a holding it back from getting to the next level. It also provides ideas on what is needed to the get to the next level.

Lotta Salminen presenting the design maturity models. -- Image credit: Tommi Luhtala
Lotta Salminen presenting the design maturity models. Image credit: Tommi Luhtala

The discussion about the design maturity models was lively and many improvements and lacks were found. Here are a few main concerns and points about the design maturity models discussions:

Even though the models state what happens on each state and what is missing, they don’t give information about what is the value of the model. What is the financial motivation for a company to move to the next level? This was felt to a vital element in promoting design internally.

 

 

 

 

The designers networking and discussing the design maturity models. -- Image credit: Tommi Luhtala
The designers networking and discussing the design maturity models. Image credit: Tommi Luhtala

 

The teams were hoping to see a model that would point out concrete actions that companies could take in order to move to the next level. They also wanted to see the concrete impact they would be able to make by using the model. E.g. teams liked the “seven stages” model because it shows what are the things holding us back and what could we do to move to the next level.

Many teams liked the InVision model since it is not only a theoretical model but an actual tool that anyone could use.

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7 tips on how to move to the next level

  1. Understand your organization — It is important to understand your organization. Every team and unit within the organization are different and can also be on a different maturity level.
  2. Identify the enablers and capabilities — Recognize who are the enablers for the change in your company and identify your internal capabilities.
  3. Build a roadmap — Make a plan. Showcase what you are doing with real life examples and document your progress. If you don’t have a use case of your own, bring in someone from outside your company to share theirs.
  4. Know your goals — Through understanding your organization you can also understand what the goals for design are. Know your KPIs.
  5. Change should happen on all levels — The change should happen both from bottom up and top down.
  6. Communicate clearly — Create a clear language and terminology and remember that you might have to use different language and terms with different stakeholders.
  7. Find your design community — Find promoters, collaborators, and people who trust design to join your journey.

What are your thoughts on these design maturity models? Are there some other interesting models or points you would like to mention? Would be great to hear your comments about this interesting topic!

The designers talking about the design maturity models.
The designers talking about the design maturity models. - Image credit: Tommi Luhtala

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