One thing I found back when I was in the position to hire a design firm was that, as you’re hinting at, most of the high profile firms look pretty much the same on paper. Their rates are similar, their size, their portfolio, etc.
What it really came down to me was whether I liked them or not. Some firms when you talked to them they listened. Others treated you like you were lucky to be talking to them.
I like the thought of scoring # of IDEA awards / # of employees. I see one problem though - IDEO is no longer simply in the product design realm, having moved on to also include ‘service/experience design’ in their portfolio. Is there an organization that hands out awards for ‘service/experience design’?
As for the matrix, I really like that idea. To confirm, you are listing X from left to right and Y from top-to-bottom? Such that you are placing IDEO in the Turnkey/Strategic Process Quadrant?
X: Depth of Services: Pure-Play to Turnkey
Y: Competency: Tactical to Strategic Process
Curious if you’ve got a completed matrix based on your experience with /knowledge of various firms?
Sharing the matrix could be a career-limiting move A lot of the firms probably aren’t where they want to be, and wouldn’t appreciate the publicity. (I also track movement in the matrix, say if a firm is on the way up, or on the way down.)
The best way to do this would be to create an anonymous survey of design managers familiar with these firms, having them score each firm against my two dimensions on a scale of 1-7.
IDEO has evolved from designing wonderful objects that people can love to the bigger picture stragigic innovation thing for big corporations. (IDEO 2.0 as instigated by Tim Brown about four years ago). To understand Tim’s priorities, look no further than his blog Design Thinking: http://designthinking.ideo.com/
So there’s little value in looking at IDEA tables- they’re moving on.