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The 5 Levels of Design Maturity

Companies that succeed at design get a competitive advantage, more devoted customers, and larger market shares. However, a company focused on design doesn’t just appear. Moving forward requires planning, strategy, and confidence.

Some businesses are just getting started. Some people haven’t even begun. Leading businesses view design as a crucial component of differentiation from the competition rather than just a technical competency.

Businesses can design experiences, products, and services that are more useful when they actively support fresh concepts and pay attention to user and consumer feedback. 

Design maturity is a way to gauge how well-equipped an organization can do that.

What is design maturity?

Design maturity is a gauge of a company’s commitment to and competence in executing user-centered design.

It covers the quality and consistency of

  • Research and design processes,
  • Resources, tools, and operations,
  • A business’s leadership, culture, and workforce,
  • A business’s inclination to support, strengthen and develop UX design, be it now or in the future.

Design teams don’t follow their gut feelings in organizations with high design maturity. In order to define what excellent experiences should produce in terms of both customer satisfaction and bottom-line revenue, they have defined design metrics that are focused on the consumer and the business.

The company is focused on providing excellent user experiences, and customer input and satisfaction are routinely relayed throughout the corporation.

To make sure that everything designed, from physical items to engagement touchpoints, effectively matches the demands of the consumer, new feedback and suggestions are continuously gathered.

A mature approach to design that is intensely focused on knowing what customers want may be a significant competitive differentiation, as well-known examples like Apple, Logitech, Tesla, and Nike all show.

Why should design teams think about an organization’s design maturity?

Companies with a high design maturity level are better able to address user and consumer needs and produce genuinely innovative and engaging experiences.

The premise for introducing or expanding design in an organization is frequently supported by models that establish a link between design maturity and financial performance.

However, design maturity is not just a measure of financial performance and productivity. 

As a designer in a large organization, the type of projects you might work on, the size of the team you might work with, and the amount of generalist or specialized talents you might need and have the opportunity to apply for are all factors that are in some ways influenced by design maturity.

Your design team can better set their goals for the next five to ten years by having a better understanding of your organization’s design maturity.

The 5 levels of design maturity

There are numerous design maturity models available for use today, but we will be focusing on what we identified as 5 different levels of design maturity using six key areas of focus within an organization: Strategy, Culture, Leadership, Standards, Expertise, and Team.

The 5 levels of design maturity are:

5 levels of design maturity

Let’s take a look at each of these levels individually.

Level 1 - Beginner

Level-one organizations concentrate solely on visual design, but there is a clear gap between what designers are trying to create and what developers are trying to build.

Organizations are concentrated on producing assets and artifacts that get little attention and scarcely give the design function any consideration.

Their lack of cooperation and communication is evident in the sometimes rocky process of product development.

Designers frequently work alone to produce designs without engaging in meaningful collaboration with other stakeholders, particularly users.

With no institutional acknowledgment of user experience as a discipline and no UX-specific roles, processes, or money, UX design ranks low among priorities.

Organizations with inadequate maturity do not consistently allocate and utilize their UX budgets.

Level 2 - Explorer

When an organization’s design maturity is at level two, more teams are involved in the design process, some UX-related planning is done, and UX budgets may be present.

People have design roles and the significance and influence of design are still being recognized by people in design roles, but it’s not nearly enough. There aren’t any well-established design processes either.

Design efforts are modest, unreliable, and focused on individual management initiatives rather than corporate policies. Design is not yet prioritized as a critical approach.

However, certain teams who employ a variety of research and design techniques and carry out numerous research projects may start to reap the rewards of their labor.

Level 3 - Committed

Design is now an essential component of the product development process and is a planned function.

By hiring designers and researchers for a variety of positions and responsibilities, the design function has now reached a certain level of maturity. The team is now fully funded to carry out the assigned objective and has implemented a design process and common design system.

The creation and availability of adequate documentation that enables feedback and evaluations within the organization results in well-defined and efficient handoffs from the design team to other functions.

Companies must define what it means to be a designer, an engineer, and a product manager at this stage of the cycle.

Design leaders are now included in crucial decision-making sessions within the organization.

They can support more sophisticated products and incorporate themselves into equally complicated internal operational structures since they adhere to this disciplinary design approach.

Level 4 - Optimized

At this point, organizations start creating DesignOps roles to oversee governance, manage numerous projects, and keep track of finances. Data is used by DesignOps to ensure transparency regarding the status and advancement of activities within the business.

They are data-driven design specialists – analytical, experiment using cutting-edge techniques, and start measuring different design metrics to determine RoI and design value consistently. 

They utilize design strategy in the early stages of their growth process while concentrating on building their vision. Customer insights are a major foundation for new projects. All customer-facing activities require the design function’s approval before moving forward.

Executives now include design in their crucial decision-making metrics, and design leaders are fully involved in the process and have the authority to empower the design team to pursue significant opportunities.

Organizations openly discuss the notable influence that design is having on how they think and act in their daily operations.

Level 5 - Matured

At this level, design governs every area of business, including execution, strategy, and vision. They are visionaries who incorporate design thinking into their internal strategies and product development.

Investment choices for new concepts, features, and products are formulated and put into practice in close coordination with the design function.

Design leaders collaborate closely with employees from different disciplines to strategize design from top to bottom and implement design from the bottom up.

Companies at this level claim that their designs have the broadest variety of effects, affecting everything from staff productivity to business growth to inventive endeavors. They monitor market changes proactively, assess for product-market fit, and apply design principles across platforms.

The overall culture of the organization is now focused on customer satisfaction, engagement & long-term loyalty.

Assess your organization’s design maturity with Cubyts

It’s crucial to understand the design maturity of your business in order to recognize and reward good work, highlight areas for improvement, and identify your organization’s strengths and flaws.

Even if design work appears to be going well at your company, be aware that there are things you can always do better that would enhance the process of creating products or services, people’s work, your company’s credibility, and the experiences of your customers and users.

Ultimately, the quality of your design work and the experiences you provide for your users will only be improved and sustained by gaining insight and self-awareness about your design maturity.

Using this knowledge and information allows you to systemize design work in a way that makes it a part of your organization’s very being. 

If you want to assess your organization’s design maturity and understand where you stand currently, we have a quick self-assessment test that you can take. 

design maturity assessment test

Simply sign up to Cubyts, head over to the Playbook tab, and self-assess in no time!