The design market is hotter than ever — especially for human-centered design, which is the right way to do it. There are more jobs, more spending, and more executive interest. But what if your company doesn’t really get design? Or what if you need help because you can’t support a full design team? Or what if you just need some special skills and outside thinking?

That’s where experience design (XD) providers come in. They design growth strategies, websites, apps, services, and many other things. But there’s a problem: Most of these XD providers sound exactly the same.

Despite having varied expertise, producing different deliverables, and striving for a range of outcomes, it’s nearly impossible to understand what each does differently.

Frustrated by the confusion, we surveyed 51 XD providers, talked to clients, and spoke with other vendors in the design space to develop a full picture of the North American market and how to navigate it.

What did we find? Three broad types of providers containing nine segments. And their methods of working have changed from previous black-box agency models and now focus on melded teams with in-house guidance and training.

Forrester clients can learn more here: