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The Recent Growth Performance of US Firms in the Industrial Design Sector: An Exploratory Study


  • Vida Vanchan
  • Alan MacPherson


This paper assesses the competitive factors associated with company growth in the US industrial design sector. This small but technologically advanced sector delivers critical innovation inputs to firms that produce durable goods. Evidence from a survey of 85 US design companies suggests that competitive success hinges upon service diversity. Specifically, the most commercially buoyant companies have diversified their service offerings beyond product or component design. These firms have developed strategic competencies in fields such as contract research, prototype development, product testing, technological forecasting, market analysis and even advertising. Although most US design companies are small-to-medium-sized enterprises, successful firms do not differ from their less successful counterparts in terms of employment size, occupational structure, regional location or market focus (client sectors). Instead, the key differences lie in service diversity and the quality of human capital. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of the empirical findings for future research on the dynamics of the design industry.

Suggested Citation

  • Vida Vanchan & Alan MacPherson, 2008. "The Recent Growth Performance of US Firms in the Industrial Design Sector: An Exploratory Study," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(1), pages 1-17.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:indinn:v:15:y:2008:i:1:p:1-17
    DOI: 10.1080/13662710701524015

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    Cited by:

    1. Arthur Vankan & Koen Frenken & Carolina Castaldi, 2014. "Designing for a Living? Income Determinants Among Firm Founders in the Dutch Design Sector," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(2), pages 117-140, February.
    2. Sadaf Bashir & Uwe Matzat & Bert Sadowski, 2014. "The Adoption of Information and Communication Technologies in the Design Sector and their impact on Firm Performance: Evidence from the Dutch Design Sector," Working Papers 14-01, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies, revised Feb 2014.
    3. Wu, Yuanyuan & Wu, Shikui, 2016. "Managing ambidexterity in creative industries: A survey," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(7), pages 2388-2396.
    4. Kirkels, Yvonne & Duysters, Geert, 2010. "Brokerage in SME networks," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 375-385, April.


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