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The Why, What & How of Design Partnership

This blog is roughly a ten-minute read. We appreciate your time and interest!

If you run a business then you probably already know the importance of design and what it can do for your business:

  • Companies that best utilize design increase their revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry counterparts. (McKinsey)
  • Companies with high design maturity see cost savings, revenue gains, and brand and market position improvements as a result of their design efforts. (InVision)

You may have also used services of design agencies. Do these situations sound familiar to you:

  • You commissioned an agency to do a design project; they went back to their cool studio, they came back, and delivered something you did not really ask for nor even need — did they actually listen to you?
  • After the final glossy design concept presentation, your in-house development team moved to the implementation phase and ran into issues with the proposed design, but the agency was no longer available for resolving those
  • You have learned design is strategic, and you want to level up your design competence, but you don't fully know where or how to start, and the design vendors just want to sell you the next one-off design project
  • You need design work now and then, and every time you need to spend time briefing the new designers of your business, users, products, and workflow.

Been there, done that. Sometimes it has been because we, in the role of the client, have made an inadequate briefing for a vendor, sometimes it has been because we, as the vendor, have for some reason applied the wrong approach in the client's context. Sometimes the budgets and schedules have not supported our mutual goals, and often it has been about unclear communication or broken telephones on both sides of the table.

We are launching Alpha Design Partners to be the design firm that does the right things and things right. For the last 20+ years, we have been doing design, building and leading design teams in product companies and in design firms, and buying and selling design projects. We are now using these learnings, both good and bad, to assemble the building blocks in a new way to contribute to our partner customers' business success genuinely. Simultaneously we are creating the most motivating and rewarding working setup for our partner designers.

It's all about Design Partnership.

Let's unfold this from the business partners' perspective first.  We wrapped together our lessons learned, and decided to call this Design-as-a-Service or DaaS, for the acronym lovers. What is Design-as-a-Service?
  1. It's about your business defining the objectives and KPIs for the design work. If you need quick visual prototyping, we won't sell you a design system project (like at least once has happened). If we see that the best solution is for you to have one more in-house designer for long-term design work, we don't sell you a design project, but we help you hire a great in-house designer.
  2. Our design projects come with an extended support tail, included in the price. After the final presentation, the responsible designer or design team will be available to support your in-house team as agreed.
  3. If your design needs are sporadic, we can staff a dedicated design team for you, available just when you need design work. The designers will learn your business, users, products, and workflows, and you won't need to brief new designers every time a new phase is starting.
  4. Our design transformation service starts by assessing your design maturity. We create a proposal on how you can elevate to the next level. We help on your transformation journey, even if it means that you will be ordering less of those everyday design projects in the future from us.

And what can design partnership be for designers? After hiring a couple of hundred designers over the last 20+ years, we've heard repeatedly that agency designers are often longing for in-house design jobs, while many in-house designers are interested in working in design agencies. These worlds differ; agency designers work with multiple clients, multiple industries, often with new technologies, and sometimes they receive prestigious awards for their design work. However, agency designers are often frustrated because they have little or no opportunity to study the real respective end users. Their world-class designs often may just end up collecting dust when the client decides not to build them or they change radically during the implementation phase. Agency designers also seldom can listen to users' feedback and improve the design in the product's future releases. In-house designers can study their end users, they can influence the features in the products and sweat the implementation details with the developers, and they will hear the users' feedback and can address that in the next release. On the other hand, in-house designers may feel stuck working with the same product and the same technologies, year after year.

We want to change this by leveling up the design ownership in the design firm context. We are building a design firm where designers can work long-term with our customer partners yet divide their working time across several customers, depending on the customers' and designer's situation and aspirations. For designers, ownership can also grow into partnership. We are building a model where seniority and ownership can lead to becoming a partner in Alpha Design Partners, the company. We also learned during this special year 2020 that design work can be professionally and effectively conducted remotely when designers feel ownership of their work and the supporting practices are in place. We embrace remote design work, as appropriate. This can mean fully remote in some of our designer positions, with the remote design workspace located not in the Helsinki region or even in Finland.

Let us help elevate your business! Drop us an email at or give us a call. And designers interested in combining the best of both worlds, join us!

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