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The Design Ladder was developed by the Danish Design Centre (DDC) in 2003 as a tool to measure the level of design activity in Danish businesses. The Ladder, used as a framework for a survey, was the first step in developing a method to assess the economic benefits of design in Denmark.
The extent to which design may enhance creativity, innovation and competitiveness depends on a company’s use of design. The DDC was convinced that design-driven companies were far more likely to develop new products compared with those that were not. Therefore in 2003, to prove their point to industry, the DDC in association with the Danish National Agency for Enterprise launched a survey to assess the economic benefits of design.
The survey examined the design investment of 1,000 companies chosen from four groups of businesses (10 to 19; 20 to 49; 50 to 99; and 100-plus employees). 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 greater strategic importance they 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. The DDC has developed a series of courses and training programmes to enable companies to progress including several recently launched modules relating to product branding, design briefing, the design process, new materials and user-driven innovation.
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