‘Design Management is a leadership role, one that requires explaining, inspiring, persuading and demonstrating how design can positively contribute to an organisation in many different ways.’ Kathryn Best, 2006
Design, as a communication channel, is a constitutive characteristic of any kind of organisation, it is ‘intrinsically linked to business in a way that both can add and create value’ (Best, 2006). Therefore, in order to properly use this powerful tool, an organisation needs a person with leadership skills the design process: the design manager.
In order for design to be effective, it is essential for design managers to have a good understanding of the marketing strategy, the financial position, the philosophy and the goals of the company and of how design can strategically play for their business in order, to achieve successful outcomes.
When it comes to business, the most important keywords to remind are: purpose, people and profit. Designers’ aim is to translate aesthetic into functionality by giving to their creativity a specific purpose or use. Companies or clients work in order to obtain a profit from the products realised by the designers. The design managers mediate between these figures by engaging and acting collaboratively with all the aspects and people of the design process, generating an action plan and continuously measuring the work and the performance (Reifi and Emmitt, 2012).
Design management is focused on the people producing but also enjoying the products (the consumers) that a company offers into the market. Although, this discipline is not only about the outcomes of a business but has the responsibility of assisting especially the early stages of the production process.
The presence of a design manager within a company can contribute to extend a vision or an idea to its maximum potential by making it innovative and marketable at the same time. The design manager must represent the identity of the company he/she is working for and elaborate strategies to enrich it. This role is in charge of taking part of the realisation of the product’s prototype, which needs to be an exact representation of the identity, the budget and the aims of the company, as well as taking part of the advertising, marketing and finally retail processes, as he must have a perfect notion of the values of the company and the needs of the consumers.
In a world that becomes more competitive every day and in which the creative industries are rapidly growing ‘as one of the best ways to increase competitive advantage between commercial companies and even entire countries’ (Best, 2010), there is the need for designers to work alongside more specialised figures with a wider understanding of the sector.
Design managers are problem solvers. Managing design can create and add a positive value not only to a company but to the entire world by operating toward the solutions of some of the biggest challenges of our society such as environmental, social and humanitarian issues. Design, with the help of design managers, can use ‘technology as a transformation tool’ (Best, 2006) to improve the world we live in.
Written by: Beatrice Bekar, DMC 2018.
References: Best, K. (2006). Design management. Managing design strategy, process and implementation. Lausanne, Switzerland: AVA Academia, pp.: 6-7, 12, 16-18. Best, K. (2010). The fundamentals of design management. Lausanne: AVA Academia, pp.: 8-9. El. Reifi, M. and Emmitt, S. (2013). Perceptions of lean design management. Architectural Engineering and Design Management, 9(3), pp.195-208.