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  • Gareth Barrett

What is Design Management?

Quite often we are asked 'what is design management?' As a discipline that is continually evolving, it is hard to answer with one quick statement. Design Management is instrumental in developing appropriate processes and methods that can integrate design into the core competency of a business. Design Managers coordinate the activities of various stakeholders, designers, developers, marketing and corporate communication staff, external suppliers and consultants, with a view to enabling the organisation or project to reach its goals as effectively as possible. 

The current understanding of design management encompasses a wide range of tasks across various functions and organisational units. Increasingly, design management is also being practised outside the design domain itself, such as in marketing, product, brand, and strategic development, and there is a new demand for it from fields that lie beyond the traditional corporate world, such as specialised consulting or strategy agencies and public sector organisations. 

Organisations are increasingly discovering the advantages of a strategic approach to design when tasked with developing human-centred, innovative, and sustainable value propositions. Having a firm grasp of design management can make a decisive difference in this regard and help to build a sustainable future. 

With many aspects of design being applied in various departments and business units, it has become essential to develop an appropriate design management approach. The complexity of the professional field can be addressed in two dimensions: the management context (where design management is focused on the organisation), and the design context (where design management is focused on the function of design). 

The resulting roles reflect the variety of goals that design management intends to achieve: some are aimed at increasing organisational performance (leadership level), others at directing the application of design (directing level). 

In its most mature form, design management assumes a visionary role in both of these dimensions and helps the organisation to clarify its purpose and give it direction. 

  • Execution-oriented roles: 

Implementing design through the planning of activities and project management. 

  • Enabling-oriented roles: 

Enabling design through coordinating and organising demand and supply between stakeholders. 

  • Direction-oriented roles: 

Directing design through connecting stakeholders in decision-making and leadership in design-related activities. 

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