Business Management


5.1 Business Processes

The design organization should have well defined and documented business processes and work-flow, and should be able to show evidence of its consistent implementation. These processes should cover the design work itself, but also client relations, finance, purchasing, human resources and all other relevant business aspects. The processes and their documentation should be ‘live’, continuously evolving with the evolution of the organization, the technology and the market. These processes should be defined such that they ensure quality for the client and ensure the stability and accountability of the company.

The organization should show evidence of application and ideally documentation of consistent business processes

5.2. Organizational aspects

The design organization should have well defined functions and responsibilities of staff; coherent staff titles and roles (e.g. project manager, project reviewer, business development officer, design director…).

Typical indicators are documentation such as an org chart and job descriptions, defining roles and responsibilities in the company / project process.

5.3. Risk management

Design projects often evolve in a high-risk environment: The impact, for example of a branding program, can represent high stakes in the future of a client corporation. The investment going into a new product development will typically dwarf the resources going into the initial design project. On the consultancies side, sometimes the open ended and not entirely quantifiable character of design projects makes it very difficult to plan reliably for resources. Overall, design projects address typically critical elements at the core of a corporation and therefore liabilities are high.

The design organization should show evidence of risk management, in which it evaluates and mitigates project risk for its clients and for itself, as well as its own internal risks (financial, liabilities, health and safety).

Evidenced by documents of risk management activities and processes both project focused and internal to the design organization as a company as well as standard contract clauses.

5.4 Contracts

Mutual responsibilities between clients or suppliers and the design organization should be well defined in a legal context with relevant documents such as contracts, quotations, purchase-orders, or others. This applies also to staff, freelancers, interns, temp-staff, suppliers and partner organizations.

Evidence will be legal documents and communications with partners.

5.5 Intellectual Property (IP) issues

IP ownership resulting from projects should be clearly addressed in contracts and proposals. The contracts should specify in detail how the IP created will be handled; e.g. when and under what conditions is IP transferred? What is part of the IP transferred and what not? To whom belongs the IP created in the project but not adopted by the client? Does the organization retain the rights to images, sketches, photographs created within a project? Can it use such elements for its own promotion (portfolio, brochures, website..). If there are applications of the concepts other than the ones commissioned by the clients, such as different digital support formats, to whom will the IP of such other adaptations belong?

Indicators will be contracts with clients, Standard terms and relevant legal communication with clients.

5.6. Financial standing 

The design organization should be in a position to ensure its stability in respect to its client engagements. Financial stability can be assumed if the company is generally profitable, has a robust cash flow, capital and reserves and/or credit line. The financial standing should be seen in relation to project values and material costs, as well as duration of projects. The diversity of its clients is a contributing factor for the financial stability of the company.

Indicators are past accounts of the company. Fully audited accounts are recommended. For new companies or an important reorganisation, a business plan can serve as indicator in addition or as substitute.