5 Best Design and Innovation Consulting Firms to Work With in 2021

UX studio is one of the global innovation design consulting firms focusing on UX design, research, and strategic consulting. We researched the top design consulting firms’ competency level, experience, and portfolio to define the most reliable design thinking companies you can trust and partner with in 2021.

If you’ve ever tried to find design and innovation consulting firms, you must know it is a challenging task. Many local and international design thinking companies offer similar services. How to choose the right one? That’s the question and a real challenge for companies and individuals looking for expert design consultancy

As a client, you want to make sure your strategic partner understands your needs and can support your goals. Considering that none of the established innovation consulting companies are cheap, you want to make sure your return on the investment is positive. 

As a product design consulting firm, we often get questions from our clients who look for reliable design, development, or marketing partners. Hence, at UX studio, we want to make sure the recommendations we make are based on solid grounds and research. Are you looking for a design thinking company now? Get in touch with UX studio and let’s discuss how we can do for you. 

Our UX experts have analyzed the top design and innovation consulting firms to help you save time and make the right decisions faster. You will find the list of the top five design consulting firms below for your consideration. Moreover, we also answer the following essential questions in the article:

  • What do design and innovation consulting firms do?
  • How can companies improve their design thinking and foster innovation?
  • How to introduce design thinking into large companies.

We hope this article will help you better understand what the leading companies in design thinking do and how to choose the most suitable design strategy firm to partner with. 

Top design and innovation consulting firms 2021

UX studio 

An award-winning UX design consulting firm working with clients worldwide

UX design agency UX studio

We are honored to include UX studio in the list of the top design consulting companies that use design thinking. 

David Pasztor, a true UX design ambassador and a former TED talk speaker, founded UX studio in 2013 with the goal to become a global product design company and create impactful digital experiences. 

We are aware that many companies choose their path and manage the challenges themselves. That’s one approach to problem-solving. However, we can step in if you are stuck with your business and need expert advice from someone who has already successfully handled challenges like yours. 

As a design thinking consulting firm, we advise on product strategy, lead workshops, and offer customized training to equip your business with the best UX practices.

We help startups and established brands optimize their time and resources, prioritize their product design and development efforts and discover untapped business opportunities. 

Since 2013, UX studio has worked with over 250 companies worldwide, and our portfolio lists notable clients such as Netflix, Google, HBO, and the United Nations World Food Programme, just to name a few. 

If you consider hiring a design and innovation consulting firm, get in touch with UX studio. On a call, we will discuss your challenges and motivations to craft a customized solution for your organization. 

With over ten years of experience and two own digital products — UXfolio and Copyfolio — we possess a unique set of skills, enabling us to share the best design practices with our partners.

Our impact from work and the value we strive to provide to our clients are recognized by the reputable B2B services rating platform, Clutch. Besides, UX studio has recently become an exclusive Zeplin design agency partner.

Is there anything we can help you with now? If you want to level up the effectiveness of your product development processes, measure the ROI on design, or get a clear understanding of your target audience, fill out our contact form to book a free consultation. We are ready to help you with any design, research, or strategic challenges you might have. 

Ideo

Global design and innovation consulting firm with a long history

IDEO ux agency

IDEO’s history dates back to 1978, when David Kelley, a founder of Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, established his design firm in 1978 and called it DKD (David Kelley Design). In 1991, David Kelley, together with two more partners, Bill Moggridge and Mike Nuttal, merged their existing companies to form a new one. This is how IDEO was born in Palo Alto, California. 

Since its beginnings, IDEO has been applying design thinking to create digital and physical products with a positive impact. From manufacturing Apple’s first mouse and Palve TV to practicing human-centered design, IDEO is one of the design industry’s pioneers.  

Since 1991, IDEO has grown to one of the top global design thinking companies with over 700 employees, five offices across the United States, and four international branches in London, Munich, Shanghai, and Tokyo.

IDEO strives to ask big global questions that affect everyone and solve the challenges together with their clients. IDEO partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to reduce food waste, Toronto Pearson Airport to develop an agility mindset and deliver exceptional services at Canada’s busiest airport, and the Gates Foundation to develop better classroom technologies. These are just a few examples of IDEO’s notable clients and the positive impact created by a company with design thinking. 

R/GA

International design thinking company headquartered in New York developing innovative solutions to serve people

R GA design thinking company

Like IDEO, R/GA is a global innovation consulting company with a long history. Since their journey started in 1977, R/GA transformed from being a computer-assisted film-making company to global innovation and consulting company with 17 branches all over the world.

R/GA unites innovation design thinkers and consultants, data scientists, and marketing experts to create world-class digital experiences and help companies with a strategic vision and business transformation. According to R/GA, they worked with companies worldwide to develop strategies for new digital products and established brands. 

Enterprise innovation, growth strategy, new business models development, brand strategy, and design are among R/GA core services. 

R/GA partnered with notable brands such as Walmart, PepsiCo, AdventHealth, Shiseido, and Nike, just to name a few.

Fantasy

A human-centered product design and innovation company headquartered in New York

Product design and innovation company

David Hugh Martin founded Fantasy in 1999 with a mighty mission to impact user experience through bold design. Fantasy is a team of more than seventy professionals of different backgrounds and experiences working across three offices in NY, San Francisco, and London.

As a top design thinking company, Fantasy works with companies worldwide to create seamless user experiences, reimagine digital products from the ground up, build complex B2B platforms, innovate existing products, and develop the next generation of intelligent platforms. 

Fantasy has expertise in the healthcare industry, hospitality and leisure, entertainment and media, finance, and technology, to name a few. Its client portfolio is diverse and impressive. Being among the pioneers in the design industry, Fantasy has partnered with notable clients such as Tesla, Google, Marriott, Dolby, Netflix, Walmart, and Balenciaga, just to name a few.

Whoa

Global design and innovation consultancy agency headquartered in Los Angeles

Design thinking and innovation consulting firm

Established in 2018,  Whoa is a young research and strategy consulting company that aims to transform challenges into innovation opportunities. 

According to Whoa, their experts approach everything they do with razor-sharp precision, unwavering honesty, and an unapologetic POV (point of view) from seasoned veterans and industry experts.”

As a design thinking and innovation consulting firm, Whoa worked with companies across seventeen different countries to help them tackle their innovation challenges. Their services include design research, market research, business and design strategy, ethnographic research, user experience design and industrial design. Even though this company with design thinking is quite young, Whoa has partnered with notable companies such as Google, Samsung, appliedVR, SanDisk, to name a few.

hire a design thinking company

What do design and innovation consulting firms do?

By now, we’ve talked about the top design thinking and innovation consulting firms. However, we know that the design thinking approach to innovation can be confusing for someone not involved in the design processes daily. Hence, here comes our easy-to-grasp definition of design thinking. 

Design thinking is a methodology used to solve complex problems and find innovative solutions. Design thinking companies aim to understand users’ pain points before developing a technically feasible solution that addresses their needs. However, some companies and individual entrepreneurs are reluctant to work with consultants and strategists. They claim there is no value in working with innovation and design consulting firms. They choose to rely on in-house resources to drive their product design processes. 

It takes time, energy, and resources to discover the issue and develop the right solution to a problem. For instance, it might take years for particular companies to optimize their internal processes, restructure in-house departments, implement new tools, and adopt a customer-centered approach. What if something fails? It would mean wasted resources, delayed progress, and lost opportunities. It’s an expensive alternative for any organization looking to create impactful digital products and maximize its revenue. This is where product design and innovation companies step in. 

Design thinking and innovation consulting companies help develop and execute ideas in the right way. They are not necessarily the ones who will be designing and developing your products. Instead, they are your strategic partners and advisers with solid expertise in your industry. 

Best design thinking companies run workshops and training to teach businesses how to implement design solutions and software to modernize and maximize their performance. From global organizations to startups, expert innovation consulting firms help companies establish a strong online presence and develop corporate identity through internal transformation and adoption of the right methods, tools, and processes.

If someone has already figured out what you currently struggle with, does it make sense to keep struggling alone? Would you instead prefer learning from someone way ahead of you?

At UX studio, for instance, we offer UX consulting and training for our partners, apart from product design and research services. We help companies understand and measure the value of design investments and shape their future product design strategy. Our dedicated UX teams are not solely designers and researchers. They are strategic partners working closely with clients towards a common goal. We know that the right design solution is essential for successful product performance. Hence, we stay long-term and share our expertise and learnings through workshops, training, and consultations to help our clients reach their business goals and level up their UX maturity. 

If you are looking for a design thinking company and product design and innovation consultants, contact us at UX studio. We are ready to discuss your challenges and come up with a customized solution tailored to your needs. 

How can companies improve their design thinking and foster innovation?

Continuous innovation helps significantly improve our quality of life and find solutions to challenges that seemed impossible to solve in the past. Rising startups and established tech giants work daily to develop faster and better solutions that address our current and future needs. However, they also need to think about in-house innovation to optimize the available resources and keep up with the rising competition. 

The design thinking approach is one of the methods businesses can use to reduce the uncertainty risk of building products that are not market fit. According to research conducted by McKinsey and Forrester, companies that implemented design thinking:

  • Have higher revenues and stakeholder returns;
  • Get products to market faster and with lower costs.

Now, the following question comes: How can a company improve its design thinking and foster innovation? This question has already been asked and researched by various institutions, like the Parsons School of Design in New York. They conducted an exploratory study in 2015 and looked at the different forms of design thinking adoption in organizations. 

According to the report “Parts Without a Whole? – The Current State of Design Thinking Practice in Organizations,” only 20% of companies reported learning about digital transformation and innovation through self-help literature and various tutorials. At the same time, half of the organizations taking part in the study said they learned about design thinking methodology from coaches and design and innovation consulting companies

If you want to run digital transformation and implement innovations in your organization, you can educate your team members and deal with the challenges in-house, or you can hire a design and innovation consulting firm. 

It might be advantageous for your organization to hire Individual consultants or companies that have already implemented design thinking due to the following reasons:

  • Fresh glance on conventional problems;
  • A team of consultants with different backgrounds;
  • Solid expertise in your industry.

If you are looking for a design thinking company, get in touch with UX studio. We are ready to help you with any challenges you might have. Our product design experts have solid experience in healthcare, fintech, SaaS, blockchain, education, and telecommunication industries, just to name a few. We have successfully run workshops, customized training, and individual consultations for rising startups and established brands like HBO, Google, and Netflix. 

As a product design and consulting firm, we can help you adopt the latest UX practices, improve your product’s usability, help you shape your product design strategy, and measure the ROI on design investment. These are just a few services we continuously provide to our partners to help them level up their business performance. If you are unsure where to start with digital transformation and innovation, contact us and book a free consultation with our team. We will define the next steps to reach your goals together. 

How to introduce design thinking into large companies

According to the Harvard Business Reviews, successful design thinking transformation results in three outputs: superior solutions, lower risks and costs, and employee buy-in. To reach these outcomes, any company that has not adopted design thinking has to know the right methodology and processes. 

At UX studio, we are convinced that people and their needs should stand behind every business decision. Hence, we utilize the design-thinking approach to work on the clients’ challenges or manage in-house issues. 

If you want to introduce design thinking approach in your organization, we recommend using the traditional five-step design thinking model proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. 

Step 1 – Empathize

Henry Ford once said his famous quote:

“If I had asked the public what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

Thanks to Henry Ford and his creative approach to problem-solving, the car became an integral part of daily life for millions of people. To give an innovative solution to the conventional problem, Henry Ford started the process by gaining an empathic understanding of the issue. It is nowadays used as the first step of the design-thinking model.

The design thinking approach implementation starts with in-depth research and understanding of your target audiences their pain points, needs, wants, and motivations. The empathize phase also covers an analysis of the physical environment of your audience. This phase helps to feel and personally relate to your audience’s issues through empathy. 

Engaging directly with your audience helps you reveal why exactly they think and act in a certain way. 

Step 2 – Define

At this point, the team collects all the research insights, analyzes and synthesizes observations. This step is needed to gather all ideas in one place, prioritize them and define the most critical challenges to work on. 

If you do this phase in-house, it’s your responsibility to define the problems you’ll put your time and resources to work on. However, if you choose to partner with a product design consulting company, professional design and research experts will talk to your target audience and collect valuable insights. You should also expect them to analyze and prioritize the tasks and present the findings. This way, you can save your time and work on something else while a team of dedicated experts is crafting an actionable problem statement for you.

Step 3 – Ideate 

Identifying the right scope of problems makes half of the problem solved. At this phase, you focus on generating ideas to address the challenges. Don’t spend too much time looking for the winning idea. The ideation part is all about brainstorming, hearing all your team members’ voices, and collecting the broadest range of ideas to choose from. Later, you will be able to verify your ideas during the testing phase. 

Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford advises using the following ideation techniques:

  • Combine your conscious and unconscious mind and rational thoughts with imagination.
  • Sketching your ideas.
  • Mindmapping.
  • Bodystorming, as a way of using your body to simulate real-case scenarios to generate ideas.

Step 4 – Prototype

At this stage, you are supposed to create an inexpensive, so-called “low-fidelity prototype” to test your ideas with potential users. 

You will have doubts and questions regarding the prototype functionality and usage. For example, you might wonder if people understand its interface, whether they can navigate the tool easily, fulfill their needs and perform business actions. The answers to these questions will help you get closer to the final and optimal customer-oriented solution. 

A prototype can be anything a user can interact with. It can be a design draft, a tablet or a mobile device with a few screens, or a simple storyboard. A prototype will help you:

  • Empirically validate your ideas and assumptions;
  • Start a conversation with your potential users and find out their opinions;
  • Save your time and resources;
  • Test multiple ideas at once and choose the best idea to focus on.

Step 5 – Test

The last, but not least important phase in the design thinking process is testing your solution with potential users. It will help you learn how they use it and whether it solves their problems as anticipated. 

When you test a physical object, ideally, you would want people to hold it, interact with it and share their feedback. In the case of a digital user interface, you can use a tablet, a mobile, or a laptop device to test web and mobile applications. Testing is your chance to detect flaws in the prototype and iterate your solution before you start developing the actual product. 

Experienced design and innovation consulting firms can effectively walk you through all the processes. At UX studio, for instance, we create the prototypes for our clients, recruit the test participants from the target audience, and test and ideate the solution right after. 

If you choose to do testing yourself, remember the following essential tips:

  • Show but don’t tell. Don’t explain to participants what your prototype is about. They have to figure it out themselves. If they don’t get it, it’s a red flag and a sign for you to keep working on the user interface. 
  • Thinking out loud protocol. Politely ask people to say out loud every thought and idea that pops up during the test. It will help you catch even the tiniest issues and refine the solution.
  • Compare. You can test several ideas and ask test participants to compare them. A comparison might reveal untapped opportunities which you did not know before. 

Searching for the design thinking and innovation consulting agency?

The future of any business lies in the hands of its users. If a company can’t meet its customer needs, it is doomed to fail. Flexible and forward-thinking companies implement the design thinking approach to minimize the risk of launching useless products, which, in turn, helps them save time and resources in the long run. 

If you are looking for a design and innovation consulting company, contact us. We’ve been helping companies worldwide create impactful design solutions for ten years. We are ready to take your challenge and bring your company to the next level.

Victoria Kurichenko

Marketing manager at UX studio. I am a passionate traveler, who is keen on exploring new places, cultures, languages and making new connections.