Edit Content

Navigating Design Maturity in Your Company

This journey not only reflects the changing face of design in organizations but also serves as a guide for companies seeking to enhance their design capabilities and integrate them more deeply into their business models.

Share the article

In the dynamic world of product design, understanding the maturity of your design team is crucial. This blog post delves into the various stages of design team maturity, the roles of Product Design Leads and Product Designers, and how these elements interplay to shape a company’s design ethos.

The Stages of Design  Maturity 

At this nascent stage, the importance of product design begins to be recognized, though it often faces challenges like limited funding and resources. Previously, design might have been an afterthought, but now there's a growing awareness and budding interest in it. This stage is marked by a unique blend of constraints and potentials: while the budget is limited, there's a high potential for establishing a foundational design culture that can shape the future of the company's product development.

In this stage, product design gains formal recognition within the company, and structured programs start to emerge, reflecting a deeper commitment to design. This marks a transition from mere interest to actual investment in design as a strategic component of the company. While structured programs may experience growing pains, this stage holds the potential for significant impact and innovation, setting the stage for more mature design practices.

Here, product design evolves to become a critical component of the company's strategy, with executive involvement underscoring its strategic importance. This shift from investment to commitment means design now plays a pivotal role in major business decisions. The involvement of executives can accelerate growth and bring more resources, but it also introduces higher expectations and scrutiny, presenting both opportunities and challenges.

At this stage, product design transcends being just a part of the company's strategy and becomes central to it, influencing all aspects of the business. This leap from commitment to engagement signifies a holistic integration of design into the company's DNA. The primary challenge now is to maintain a culture of innovation while being a core driver of the company's strategy, ensuring that design continues to contribute significantly to the business's success.

In this advanced stage, design becomes the very fabric of the company, seamlessly integrated and indispensable to its operations. Design transcends its role as a mere 'part' of the company and becomes synonymous with the company's identity. The challenge at this stage is to keep the design ethos fresh and continuously evolving, avoiding complacency and ensuring that design remains a dynamic and integral part of the company's growth and evolution.











Funding Questions for  Product Design  Teams
Is there a dedicated budget for the product design team?
This aspect examines whether the company has set aside a dedicated budget specifically for the product design team. It assesses the financial commitment of the organization towards its design department, indicating how much priority is given to design in the overall business strategy. A dedicated budget for the product design team reflects the company’s recognition of the importance of design and its willingness to invest in it.
Does the development budget allocate 10-15% for product design?
This refers to the proportion of the overall development budget that is allocated to product design. The benchmark of 10-15% is often used to gauge if a sufficient portion of the budget is dedicated to design-related activities. This percentage reflects the company’s understanding of the value of design in the development process and its commitment to integrating design effectively into product development.
This aspect evaluates whether the company ensures fair and competitive compensation for its design team members. It looks at how the organization values its design staff in terms of financial remuneration. Fair compensation is a key factor in attracting and retaining talented designers and reflects the company’s acknowledgment of the importance and skill involved in design work. It also indicates the company’s commitment to ethical and equitable employment practices.
Are staff development, equipment, and training considered critical expenditures?
This point focuses on whether the company considers expenses related to staff development, equipment, and training as critical expenditures for the design team. It assesses the company’s investment in the growth and efficiency of its design team. Recognizing these expenditures as critical indicates that the company values the continuous development and upskilling of its design team, as well as the importance of equipping them with the necessary tools and training.
Auditing Your Product Design Maturity :
Usability Testing:
This aspect investigates whether the company conducts regular usability testing to refine and improve its designs. Usability testing involves evaluating a product or service by testing it with representative users. This practice is crucial for understanding how real users interact with the design, identifying any issues or areas for improvement, and ensuring that the final product is user-friendly and meets the needs of its target audience.
Stakeholder Input:
This point assesses whether design decisions within the company are made solely based on internal stakeholder input, or if they also incorporate feedback from external sources. Best practices in design often involve gathering insights from a variety of stakeholders, including customers, end-users, and external experts. Relying solely on internal perspectives can limit the diversity of ideas and feedback, potentially overlooking crucial user needs and preferences.
Business Dictation:
This aspect examines the dynamic between the business team and the design team in terms of dictating requirements. It questions whether the business team completely dictates what needs to be designed, or if there is a collaborative approach where designers have a say in the process. A collaborative approach is often more beneficial as it allows for a balance between business objectives and design innovation, leading to more effective and user-centered products.
End-User Interaction
This point looks at whether product managers have direct engagement with end-users to understand their needs and experiences. Direct interaction with end-users can provide invaluable insights into how they use and perceive the product, what challenges they face, and what improvements they desire. This firsthand information is crucial for developing products that truly resonate with and meet the needs of the target audience.
Field Studies:
This aspect assesses whether the company conducts field studies to validate and understand user needs in real-world contexts. Field studies involve observing and interacting with users in their natural environment, where they would typically use the product or service. This method provides a deep understanding of user behaviors, needs, and challenges in a real-world setting, which is essential for creating designs that are practical, relevant, and highly user-centric.
Choose the right type of questions ?
Team Engagement and Interaction Focus:

Engage Your Entire Team: This aspect emphasizes the importance of involving every team member in the design process, fostering a collaborative environment where everyone’s input is valued. It’s about moving beyond rigid processes and tools to focus on human interactions and contributions.
Stay Close and Maintain Rapport: This point highlights the need for maintaining close relationships and rapport within the team. It’s about ensuring open communication and understanding among team members, which is crucial for a cohesive and effective working environment.
Process Education: This refers to educating the team about the importance of processes in a way that enhances, rather than hinders, individual creativity and interaction. It’s about finding a balance between following procedures and allowing for personal input and innovation.

Prioritizing Rapid Software Development:

Ad-Hoc UI Solutions: This involves adopting flexible and immediate solutions for user interface design, allowing for quicker development and iteration of working software.
Flexibility with Usability Needs (Trade-Off): This point addresses the necessity of balancing usability needs with the flexibility required in rapid development environments. It’s about making informed trade-offs that don’t compromise the user experience but allow for faster software delivery.
Trust Developers to Be Creative: This aspect encourages trusting the creativity and innovation of developers, allowing them the freedom to experiment and come up with unique solutions, which can lead to more efficient and effective software development.

Enhanced Collaboration through Visuals:

Less Document, More Visuals and Usable Deliverables: This point suggests reducing reliance on extensive documentation in favor of more visual and interactive deliverables that enhance understanding and collaboration.
Visual Wins: This emphasizes the power of visual tools in conveying ideas and fostering collaboration. Visuals can often communicate complex concepts more effectively than text-heavy documents.
Design Studio – Collaborative Design Sessions: This involves implementing collaborative design sessions, like design studios, where team members can collectively brainstorm, sketch, and refine ideas, enhancing the collaborative spirit and creative output.

Adaptability and User-Centric Change:

Assume that Assumptions are Wrong: This principle encourages the team to constantly question and test their assumptions, fostering an environment where adaptability and responsiveness to new information are prioritized.
Check Inside-Out Thinking: This point is about regularly re-evaluating the team’s perspective to ensure it aligns with user needs and external realities, rather than being solely driven by internal thought processes.
Test with Users When in Doubt: This emphasizes the importance of user testing in resolving uncertainties. When there’s doubt about a feature or design choice, turning to real user feedback can provide clarity and direction, ensuring that the product remains user-centered and relevant.

The Strategic Advantage of Outsourcing Product
Outsourcing product design offers access to a diverse global talent pool, bringing unique perspectives and specialized skills. This approach not only enhances innovation but also proves cost-effective, allowing businesses to focus on core competencies while leveraging external expertise for high-quality design solutions.
Cultivating Trust and Excellence in Outsourced Design Collaborations
Building a strong, trust-based relationship with outsourced teams is essential for success. Emphasizing clear communication, cultural sensitivity, and the use of collaborative tools ensures quality and consistency in design outputs, aligning them with the company’s vision and standards for a seamless integration of outsourced contributions.

Embracing a Holistic Approach to
Product Design

In conclusion, the evolution of product design from an auxiliary function to a central strategic component reflects a broader shift in business paradigms. By recognizing the value of design at every stage, from initial awareness to complete integration, companies can harness its full potential. This journey involves not only internal development and investment but also the strategic use of global resources through outsourcing. The key to success lies in fostering a culture of continuous innovation, collaboration, and adaptability, ensuring that design remains a dynamic and integral part of the company’s identity and growth. As businesses navigate this landscape, the emphasis on design as a core element of strategy and identity becomes not just a trend, but a fundamental aspect of sustainable success in an ever-evolving market.

Mohsen Samoudi

Mohsen steers product evolution at Areion Design, expertly balancing operational efficiency with cutting-edge design principles to deliver standout market solutions.

Share the article