Enhancing Your Creative Process: Understanding the Design Maturity Model

June 24, 2024
8 minute read
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Have you ever wondered why some businesses have fantastic product designs while others have questionable design decisions? If you want a good design for your website or app, you must use design methods incorporating top design UX practices.

But how can you be sure your design approach will meet user needs?

After all, creating a design is simple, but knowing if people like it is what's difficult.

Businesses that have an excellent relationship with design, do not just because they employ design experts.

Design-driven businesses like Apple have design maturity (UX maturity).

High maturity design means a business has qualitative product and website data.

Usually, through a survey or other data harvesting technique, they collect information about UX activities and then complete UX work to improve their interfaces. In essence, they redefine the standards of what's good and bad.

Business owners often wonder, is design thinking or an agile sprint approach better for workflows?

But you can use both to move up the design maturity model ladder.

It's important because design maturity can transform your business from dull into a powerhouse of creativity while boosting revenue. It can guide you as you learn how to build a successful partnership with a design system agency or continue perfecting the product design team structure for in-house growth.

In this blog post, we will discuss the Design Maturity Model. You will learn its levels and impact on business outcomes. You'll acquire strategies you can implement to make your designs better. And we'll provide real-world examples so you can see why it's essential and why organizations need it.

Key Takeaways

  • UX maturity affects all levels of the organization.
  • The Maturity Model helps you achieve better results.
  • Assessing design teams and identifying gaps can help improve maturity with a strong overall strategy.
  • Strategies for advancing include building a shared vision across teams, investing in operations & systems, and embracing continuous learning.

What are the five levels of Design Maturity?

Design Maturity describes how well a business listens to customers and user input. It shows how customer and user-centric its design processes and teams are.

The maturity scale has several phases, starting at level 1 and ending at level 5. Let's learn them so you understand how design is used at each level. A company's design maturity level can indicate its success.

Level 1: Unrecognized

Design's role in an organization should be more recognized and utilized at this initial stage. It's typically limited to superficial aesthetics and has a lack of cohesion. Design in this phase is more about appearance than functionality. Its potential to drive business value needs to be recognized. For organizations here, the first step is acknowledging design's broader role. After that, they have significant room to grow. Until they do, potential customers will likely ignore their business.

Level 2: Emergent

In the emergent stage, organizations start to see the importance of design beyond aesthetics. Their work might try to reflect their current understanding. However, the design application is still inconsistent and lacks a structured approach. Processes are in their infancy, and design thinking begins to emerge in project discussions, but it may need to be fully integrated into the overall strategy.

Level 3: Structured

Here, design processes become more defined and standardized. Organizations recognize the necessity of design for user experience and begin to implement systematic approaches. Design teams have clearer guidelines and start to influence projects more significantly. However, design integration into business strategy has yet to be fully realized. At this stage, businesses still need deep insights to produce meaningful results that lead to tangible business benefits.

Level 4: Integrated

At this level, design operations are fully integrated into the organizational process. It's considered a key component in all development processes. It influences the user experience and cross-platform strategies. Design teams work collaboratively with other departments now. It ensures design thinking is integral to developing solutions and driving innovation. Businesses can reach design maturity by outsourcing design work to a team of professionals or mastering the art of managing a design team, whether it be in-house or not.

Level 5: Visionary

Organizations at this level are called Visionaries. They place design at the core of their business processes. Design is a driving force behind innovation and market differentiation. Companies at this stage are often industry leaders in design thinking, setting trends, and redefining user experiences. They leverage design to drive business decisions and shape market trends.

These companies know how to create and follow a design quality assurance checklist to reach goals faster.

Many of these companies will have an in-house team or vetted team of professionals working to create magic.

They have a refined approach to design often including an annually updated design handoff checklist to reduce confusion within their company.

Resulting from this, visionary companies know the cost of product design and how to reduce it through years of process iteration, like design sprints for UX that improve efficiency.

Can you see why understanding your organization's UX maturity directly relates to your success?

The Importance of Design Maturity

Design maturity distinguishes industry leaders from the rest. And no, it doesn't only apply to large corporations. Small businesses can benefit from it, too.

Increased design maturity in your organization correlates with better business results, such as cost savings, revenue gains, enhanced brand recognition, and project-specific benefits.

Maturity Scale impacts on business outcomes

High design maturity affects your bottom line. Businesses with high maturity perform better than those without it. Those with maturity show industry-benchmark growth by as much as two to one times.

The key performance indicators of design maturity in business include:

  • Customer and employee satisfaction
  • Productivity ratios
  • Analytical leadership

Cross-functional teams are instrumental in reaching higher design maturity levels. They lead to improved business performance.

As organizations integrate design efforts into their strategies and processes, they can expect the following:

  • increased market share
  • happier customers
  • more successful products

Now you understand the impact UX maturity can have on your entire organization and overall business strategy, how can you assess your design and development to know where you stand?

Let's see how it improves communication in your business now so you can follow these steps to improve every metric in your business.  

Enhanced Collaboration And Innovation

Elevated UX maturity enhances business outcomes. In working sessions, it encourages internal collaboration and innovation, which effectively increases employee productivity.

Organizations can create a continuous, ongoing living system by breaking away from linear thinking. That system then encourages adaptability and improvement.

Innovation is a major part of the process. It helps organizations develop new ideas, methods, and solutions that push the boundaries of design.

By fostering a culture of continuous UX improvement, your business can:

  • Stay ahead of the competition
  • Adapt to changing customer needs
  • Identify and solve problems quickly
  • Create unique and memorable experiences
  • Drive business growth and success

Where Does My Business Fall On The Design Maturity Model?

As you employ design in your business, have you ever considered where you stand on the design maturity model? The journey involves reviewing aspects like:

  • user research
  • design strategy
  • icon design

If you find your team frequently engaged in interesting design topics, striving for product-market fit, and prioritizing user-centric approaches, you're likely advancing on the maturity scale.

Design maturity encompasses a holistic approach to embedding design in your business strategy.

Recognizing your current position is the first step towards enhancing your design capabilities.

So, let's explore how this understanding can catapult you into enhanced collaboration, innovation, and elevated UX maturity.

Here's how to determine your level.

Assessing your design team

Evaluating your design team effectively means looking closely at the following:

  • Individual talents
  • Teamwork
  • Attitudes when collaborating

To do this, you can map out each person's skills to see where they shine or where they might need to level up.

Learn the methods they use to tackle projects like:

  • Design Thinking for creative problem-solving
  • Google Design Sprints for fast-paced innovation
  • Double Diamond Design Process for structured discovery and delivery

Doing this allows you to spot where your team's workflow could be better and guide them toward even greater creations such as modular website design to increase efficiency.

Identifying gaps and opportunities

A hard look at where your organization stands on the scale reveals key areas for growth.

You can learn the process of a design system audit to help you understand this better.

But if you need something fast, you could be wondering if a gap analysis will do?


You're comparing where you are with where you want to be.

Maybe you find out that your team is ace at graphic design but less at user experience design.

You might use established frameworks and tools that measure your team's skills for a deeper understanding.

Perhaps you notice that while your team is fantastic with the Adobe Creative Suite, they're not as confident using UX tools like Sketch or Figma.

It is a cue to invest in UX training, bring in new talent to beef up lagging areas, or learn how to look for a team of experienced designers for outsourced product design.

Strategies for Advancing Design Maturity

Elevating your organization's design expertise requires crafting a unified vision and nurturing a culture that values design. You need to rally everyone around the idea of designing a business strategy.

If it worked for Apple, it could work for you, too. Right?

Next, you back up this idea by putting money into design operations and systems.

A one-time setup won't work.

You need to get everyone on board with your idea.

You do this with regular workshops and training sessions to keep your team's skills sharp and current.

If you don't have an in-house design team, learn how a design subscription can keep your business and processes current and help you move up the 5 levels of design maturity.

The approach translates to real business wins, happier customers, and a notch above your competitors in the market race.

Building a shared vision and culture

Cultivating a shared vision and culture requires the following steps:

  1. Create a vision statement that directs your design team's actions and contributes to your organization's success.
  2. Build a design-centric mindset within your organization to promote a collaborative atmosphere.
  3. Ensure that everyone's goals align with your overall business vision.
  4. If you have an existing website, decide if you need to revamp or redesign the website to attract more customers.

If you fail to do these, your business could stagnate, and you will lose potential revenue and customers.

Investing in design operations and systems

We've mentioned workshops and ongoing training. But do you understand it?

Putting resources into design operations and systems is like giving your team the best sports gear—they'll perform better, faster, and smarter. You set the stage for design excellence when you fine-tune your processes.

Equip your team with top-notch tools and make sure all your teams use them. It'll build a solid infrastructure to reach your goals.

Think about all the tangible perks. Workflows will speed up. You'll trim budgets and pull off projects with a flair that only well-oiled design machinery can achieve.

It's like swapping out old hand tools for a full suite of power tools—the difference in productivity and quality is a game-changer.

For instance, if you need to redesign your website, your team can quickly produce a website redesign checklist that anyone will understand.

Embracing continuous improvement and learning

You need to maintain a state of evolution for your business. Stay nimble, innovative, and achieve success by always being open to new ways of doing things.

Building a culture where learning never stops means your team is always one step ahead of the competition.

We guarantee you'll see the benefits, so don't neglect it.

Real-World Examples of Design Maturity Success

Often, we need context to understand new topics. We want you to grasp how maturity will benefit your business fully. The best way to do this is by providing real-world examples. So, let's look at some highly mature businesses.

Large enterprises like:

  • Apple
  • Airbnb
  • Google
  • Nike

All of them have achieved high UX maturity. Their businesses effectively showcase the benefits of integrating design thinking into their organizational DNA. These industry giants have demonstrated how design is a major factor in business success.

When you want a pair of running shoes, you think of Nike. When you want a quick getaway but not a small room, you go to Airbnb.

They are always on the top of your mind, and their business gets your money and the benefits afforded by design.


We've covered why your business needs to start incorporating design into its business practices. If your organization's current strategy for growth lies with discounts, it's time to change that.

Businesses like Apple and Airbnb are prime examples of how high UX maturity leads to innovation, standout market presence, and customer satisfaction.

Understand where your organization stands on the design maturity scale to reach this level. Assess your team, then focus on advancing your UX maturity.

Remember, design is a journey that involves constant assessment and adaptation. But the rewards are well worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the maturity model of organizational design?

An Organizational Maturity Model is a framework for measuring and improving the maturity of an organization. There are five distinct levels of maturity.

How do you build design maturity?

To build design maturity, you must develop a strategy, assess your team, and set up processes.

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