The Same, but Better: Understanding the Practice of Designing for Incremental Innovation in Web Design
Michael Mose Biskjær, Peter Dalsgaard, Kim Halskov


Although the vast majority of new products are incremental innovations, radical innovation still attracts the most attention from design researchers and practitioners. We examine the frequently overlooked practice of designing explicitly for incremental innovation as the bread-and-butter work for most professional designers. Informed by a broad literature review of incremental and radical innovation, we report a qualitative case study of a leading European digital design agency tasked with designing a ‘same, but better’ product—a global subsidiary company website. Based on three rounds of coding of five videorecorded design meetings, we contribute a model showing how the observed digital designers purposely delimited radical innovation by managing six critical forces that constrained their design space. These forces are client, customer, competitor, catalogue, content, and context. Our ‘six C’ model can be used by design researchers to articulate and analyze incremental innovation in design processes and by professional digital designers to improve their understanding of how to best manage incrementally innovative web design projects. We discuss how our six C model complements previous contributions, and we suggest avenues for future work.

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