Breaking the Mold: Why Conventional UX Maturity Models Miss the Mark

Joana Cerejo
10 min readNov 21, 2023

How Traditional UX Maturity Models Fail to Lead the Way in a Dynamic Design Landscape

Design maturity is a critical factor in an organization’s ability to innovate, create user-centric products, and stay competitive in today’s dynamic business landscape.

What is Design Maturity?

Design maturity level is a concept used to assess the impact and value that design generates in an organization. By assessing its mindset, process, strategy, and decision-making quality and influence across different levels of the organization structure. The result is a comprehensive picture of the organization’s unified understanding and investment in design.

Which Design Maturity Level Models are out there?

There are several design maturity scales and models out there. Like the design ladder by the Danish Design Center or the Bubble Model that analyses where the design function sits in an organization. One of the most well-known is the Stages of UX Maturity from Nielsen and Norman Group. One solid model that attempts to quantify the design maturity level is the design value scorecard by the Design Management Institute. Plus, a few years ago, a design company called Artefact made the first attempt at measuring the design maturity level through a survey that asses the design from 5 different levels: Empathy; Mastery; Character; Performance; and Impact. But the service has been discontinued for a long time now.

And what do they have in common?

These and other design maturity models share a common thread — a collective acknowledgment of the role that design maturity plays in achieving organizational success. In essence, they function as evaluative frameworks, delving into key aspects such as user empathy, design principle mastery, the efficiency of design integration, performance in design processes, and the overarching impact of design on broader business outcomes.

Yet, there is another common pattern beyond their thematic focus. These models share a similar orientation, conceptualizing design maturity in a ladder-like progression. This ascending structure underscores a shared belief in the evolutionary nature of design maturity, emphasizing the journey toward higher levels of proficiency, innovation, and strategic impact within organizations.