There’s a lot of talk about design-driven organisations and almost all the directors root for them. But what is the reality?

Here’s a 6-point checklist to test, if our organisation is design-driven.

1. Design process

Do you have follow a design process? Is there a multidisciplinary team working on design?

What it means: Although some innovations come up in unexpected situations, a design process can significantly speed up and improve the quality of design. It also means connecting different disciplines, whether it’s business, sociology, technology or design. The more efficient design process a company has, the more features it can ship and learn new information about the potential customers.

2. Design resources

Are there sufficient amount of design-doers and problem solvers? Are there resources for design research or customer surveys?

What it means: Design is also a craft. There are employees who know their craft and can also solve the problems, not just create them. Designers are also good at asking the right questions, not just answering them — they can be much more than just problem-solvers. This gives a lot of flexibility, when there are many employees, who can not only ask the questions, but solve them as well. Great developers can also have a good knack for solving design problems.

Majority of the office workers still haven not to broken that Powerpoint/Excel/Word barrier — very few features are actually shipped using those products in tech startups.

3. Communication

How transparent and proactive is the communication during the design phase? Who are involved in the process?

What it means: The more senior the designer is the more he/she communicates. Communication is essential for avoiding unnecessary work, making everybody committed and improving the design quality. Not everybody has to make design decisions, but communicating the designs effectively prevents errors and raises awareness about design.

4. Budget

Is there a dedicated quarterly budget for design and can designers plan the budget themselves?

What it means: Responsible and experienced designers have access to network of professionals and know how to get bang for the buck. Instead of asking money for assets or small out-sourcing tasks, there should be goals and budget to reach that goal in a given period of time. If those two have been met, designers have spent the money wisely. It’s not always the best option to hire a new guy in-house, but buy services from a professional in that particular field. It can save money in the long run.

5. Training

Are there possibilities for employees to educate themselves?

What it means: Design conferences are a great way of finding new point of views to design, meeting colleagues and learn more about the industry. Reading new books every now and then doesn’t hurt either. Or participating in a design workshop. Or having a mentor.

Some design conferences:

6. Board of directors and executive team

Is there a designer in the board of directors or executive team responsible for design strategy?

What it means: It all comes to this last point — it is likely that all the other five points are covered, if the sixth point is covered. And vice versa. Design is only taken seriously if it is involved in the decision-making in every level of an organisation. If no designer is involved in the decision-making it shows on how the resources are distributed. Usually this sixth point is covered only if there’s a design founder in the company OR if the company is battling from the market share with the very best of the industry in global competition. Most companies talk the talk — they are pro design, but shy away when it comes to this last and sixth point, which is the most important from them all.

How to fix it?

There are two ways:

  1. Fix point 6 and wait.
  2. Fix points 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 (…but probably it would be easier just to fix point 6).