Danish Design Ladder
Topic of the practice
To provide evidence to policy-makers about the contribution of design to GDP.
Good Practice Information
In 2003 and 2006 the Danish Design Centre and National Agency for Enterprise conducted the 'Economic Effects of Design' surveys. The surveys examined the design investment of 1,000 companies and telephone interviews focused on: total investment in design; gross revenue performance; difference in gross revenue, employment and exports for companies that adopt a comprehensive approach to design compared to those who do not use design. The main conclusions were that Danish companies invested an annual total of EUR 1 billion in design. Companies that use design have an additional growth in gross revenue of 250%,compared with companies that do not use design. Linking performance data with investment in design revealed a correlation between design purchase and economic growth. Using the survey data, companies were categorised into four stages of design maturity depending on their approach to design investment.
The higher a company was ranked on the Design Ladder, the greatest strategic importance it attributed to design. In order to raise awareness of the benefits of design in industry, it is vital to encourage companies to move up the scale through design support programmes on new product and service develeopment, branding and user-driven innovation. By indexing the companies according to the four profiles, the Design Ladder provides an assessment of how many companies actually move up a rung on the ladder over the course of three years. The results revealed that, between 2003 and 2006, the distribution of Danish companies at stage three of design maturity rose from 35% to 45% and the number of companies at stage four rose from 15% to 20%. The Design Ladder also serves as a model for explaining to companies that design is more than merely product styling, meaning that companies can reflect on their own way to incorporate design into their business culture.
Evidence of success
The Design Ladder is proving successful at a time when evaluation has been highlighted as an obstacle in design policy debates. In 2009, the European Commission public consultation 'design as a driver of user-centred innovation' asked about barriers to the better use of design. The second most significant was considered the 'lack of tools to evaluate the rate of return on design investment' (64%). As design climbs European policy agendas, the importance of addressing this barrier is more relevant than ever. Evaluation is a vital part of the evidence to support decision-making. However, for the Danish method to be successful, data needs to be collected in consecutive periods to provide comparative results. By assessing how many companies move up the Design Ladder once design programmes and policies have been implemented, governments have a tangible assessment of the role of design in industry.
Contact details to obtain further information on the practice
Design Wales / UWIC
Annex completed on: 04-01-2011