Design Management Staircase

How to connect the strategy, design strategy and design management?

Simply focusing on design and trying to connect it with the strategy is not supposed to create good results. There was a model developed to show that companies are to focus on design management rather than simply on the use of design. In the model, called Design Management Staircase there is a range presented from the immature level of design management to a level where design management is of strategic nature and part of the company’s culture (Kootstra, 2009, p. 12) and therefore part of corporate identity. The model is presented in the Figure below.

Design Management Staircase

At highly driven design companies they have a differentiation strategy where design is at their core. Those kinds of companies are market leaders’ through design innovation. This is reflected in the non-technological innovations that are first-to-market in opposition to so-called me-to innovations where design innovations are copied by followers. (Kootstra, 2009, p. 13). If a company wants to achieve the highest level it needs to have a design as part of strategic plans and design planning should be a dynamic process that drives the business (Kootstra, 2009, p. 15).

But, not every company needs to focus its strategy on the role of design as a driving force of innovation. It depends on the nature of the organization, market position, or strategy, it may be sufficient for a company to be on the level of design management as a function or even as a project (Kootstra, 2009, p. 13).

Kootstra, Gert L. 2009. The incorporation of design management in today’s business practises: An analysis of design management practises in Europe. Design Management Europe: ADMIRE programme, 63 p.


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