The DME Staircase Model

A wide range of Design Management aspects can influence the way in which design is integrated and managed by a company – and therefore have to be considered when defining a company’s design management capability. In practice, companies handle design in a myriad of ways. Even two equal sized companies operating in the same sector will often adopt different approaches.

Therefore, our challenge was to be able to assess and evaluate the Design Management capabilities of our DME Award Entrants. In absence of an existing validated model for this purpose, we developed the academically recognised Design Management Staircase model.

The Design Management Staircase model describes the characteristic Design Management behaviour and capability of businesses at four levels. The level classification ranges from the lowest level “No Design Management” to the highest level where Design Management is used strategically and is part of the business culture. This ranking implies that businesses reaching higher levels of the model assign a higher strategic use of design than businesses in lower levels. However, businesses do not necessarily have to strive for the highest level, as various external factors determine the particular needs of each business and the most sufficient level of the Design Management Staircase model.

STAIRCASE MODEL LEVEL

LEVEL 1: NO DESIGN MANAGEMENT

In this level businesses make no use of Design Management. Design has no role in the business objectives and is only applied occasionally with no or limited objectives. All design results are highly unpredictable and inconsistent due to a lack of a clear defined process. Design knowledge and experience is accordingly absent or very limited.

LEVEL 2: DESIGN MANAGEMENT AS A PROJECT

In this level is the use of design still very limited to meeting direct business needs. Design is not recognised as a tool for innovation or implemented in the New Product Development process. Therefore, the use of design is restricted to adding value to existing products through styling, packaging etc. and is only used as a marketing tool with minimal coordination. The responsibility of design remains at an operational level.

LEVEL 3: DESIGN MANAGEMENT AS A FUNCTION

In this level businesses start to recognise design as a tool for innovation. Design is integrated in the New Product Development process and several disciplines and specialists become involved in the design process. The formal responsibility for design lies with an assigned staff member or department managing all involved groups.

LEVEL 4: DESIGN MANAGEMENT AS A CULTURE

In this level businesses are highly design driven and potentially established market leaders through design driven innovations. Design is an essential part of their differentiation strategy, generating a distinct competitive advantage. For this reason, design is an integral part of the business processes with the involvement of a wide range of different departments. A design literate top management is reinforcing the support and significant value of design amongst the entire business. This results in design being a part of the businesses’ corporate culture.

DME Staircase Model – Click on the picture to download the full report

STAIRCASE MODEL FACTORS

All four levels of the Design Management Staircase model are further defined by five factors influencing the success or failure of design and indicating good Design Management. The level ranking is dependent on the extent to which businesses have implemented these five factors.
The five factors are:

FACTOR AWARENESS: Degree of awareness of benefits

The extent to which businesses are aware of the benefits and the potential value that design and Design Management can offer

FACTOR PLANNING: Whether design plans and objectives are developed

The extent to which businesses have developed a strategy for design, articulated in business plans, and communicated widely.

FACTOR RESOURCES: People (design staff), funding (budgets) and means of production (facilities)

The extent to which businesses invest in design. Resources are considered as the sum of all design investment.

FACTOR EXPERTISE: The level of Design Management experience, skills and expertise

The quality of the design staff and the range of tools and methods applied.

FACTOR PROCESS: Whether an effective process is followed

The extent to which businesses follow a professional and effective design management process, embedded in core business processes.

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