What design expertise do design managers have?

Our students come from various disciplines including industrial design, graphic design, communication and information design, interior design, interactive media design, architecture, and fashion design. They work for – or go on to work for – corporations, design firms, educational institutions, and government. Design Managers practice industrial design, graphic design, service design, environment design, brand identity, or interface design, among others.

How well equipped must a Design Manager be as a designer? How good must a MPS recipient be to be taken seriously as a Design Manager? These are unresolved questions. But a good balance between Design and Management is probably the right answer. An MBA is just business. A DM isn’t just business.

What is “design thinking”?

Design thinking is the strategy side of design. Design thinking is an approach to problem solving that values exploration, experimentation, and does not fear making mistakes. Design thinking is the way designers normally solve design problems using the left side of the brain. What makes design thinking unusual is when it is applied to business problems, in which the normal methodology is typically quite different and relies on the right side of the brain. Design thinking uses research; understanding the consumer; and tells a story that will resonate. Design management and design thinking lead to a design brief, a formal document that describes a problem as accurately as possible and provides a framework for assessing the rightness of a solution.

What is design management?

A disruptive way to solve business problems. What is design? Planning. What do designers do? Plan function and meaning. What is innovation? A new way of thinking about a problem; solving a problem creatively; creating a problem the user didn’t know he had.

Design Management is a problem-solving process that enables innovation and creates well-designed products, services, communications, environments, and brands that enhance the quality of life and provide organizational success.

Wikipedia says: “Design thinking refers to the methods and processes for investigating ill-defined problems, acquiring information, analyzing knowledge, and positing solutions in the design and planning fields. As a style of thinking, it is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context.”

From the SASD DM brochure: “Design represents a valuable asset. It represents the tools to solve problems and innovate. The ability to understand, optimize, and steer that asset is vital to an organization’s success… Design management is profitable. Designers are becoming crucial members of the business landscape. The field of Design Management encompasses every discipline of design including graphic and communication, architecture and interior, industrial and engineering, and fashion and textile.”

These are the six core aspects of design and business:

Leadership Working with teams and championing an idea.
Strategy Developing concepts and design elements that align with a company’s core plan of action.
Marketing Understanding product and package design, promotion, and physical plant design.
Operations Identifying, understanding, and influencing efficient operational practices.
Finance Comprehending annual reports, cash flow statements, and balance sheets.
Legal Protecting an organization’s intellectual property like trademarks, copyrights, and patents.
DM links design, innovation, technology, management, and customers to provide a competitive advantage across the “triple bottom line”: social/cultural, environmental, and economic (People, Planet, Profits).

DM is the art and science of using design to enhance collaboration and synergy between design and business to improve design effectiveness.

Using design thinking and processes to solve business problems, DM advocates design across an organization as a key differentiator and driver of organizational success.

Design managers lead design firms and design teams in creative industries.

DM incorporates design thinking, service design, and sustainability in the production and management of information, services, and experiences.

Design management is Social Responsibility, Sustainability, and Profitability