by Martine Zajacek
A current buzzword, Design Management means many things to many people.
But what is design management? And why is it the topic on everyone's
Design Management, put simply, is the management of the design process.
In researching this article I've decided that design management has two
main focuses: internal and external. And its the internal focus with
which designers are most familiar.
Consultants such as Robyn Robins, a design management and communication
expert, are responsible for the increased awareness among designers of
the importance of design management to their business. Robins has
lectured on design management related topics for most AGDA state
chapters during the last few years. Under her tutelage designers have
been given the tools and strategies to make them more professional and
business-like in running their design practices.
Design management is a growth industry and is of paramount importance to
the continuing professionalism of Australian designers. AGDA,
recognising this fact, has published a practice note Design Management:
unlocking the graphic design process. Aimed at designers and their
clients, the publication discusses design, its value to business and
explains the design process. Detailed information on the stages in the
process and a comprehensive checklist are provided. The publication is
available as a PDF file for downloading from members only section of the
The 1998 AGDA/ISS Professional Fellowship, designed to fill a skills gap
in the design industry, was awarded to Lucy Elliott, a student studying
for her second degree, in Business. Elliott attended a design management
conference in Amsterdam, and on her return will disseminate to AGDA
members information on the intricacies of running a design studio.
All of these initiatives ? design management seminars, publications and
awarding fellowships ? are directed at the internal focus of design
management: that of educating designers encouraging them to become
professional and business-like in running their design practices.
While this is an important issue, it is the external focus of design
management that will have the greatest impact on our industry. This
external focus ? the promotion of design and the understanding of its
worth to business, industry and culture ? can affect the relevance with
which the business and corporate community views our profession.
The Design Management Institute (DMI) is an international association
based in Boston. Founded in 1975 at the Massachusetts College of Art,
the DMI envisions a future in which design is managed in the best
possible way and all industries and organisations value design as a
crucial business tool.
The DMI's objective is to advocate for the economic and cultural
importance of design, and to make accessible a body of knowledge on
design effectiveness in business.
Through its case study program, the DMI sponsors and develops research
methodologies that explore and document the exact role design plays in
business success. The published case studies, now numbering over 30,
document the value of design and are taught at many of the world's
leading business schools, including Harvard.
The DMI advocates the inclusion of business issues understanding in
undergraduate design education, has recently established a MBA in Design
Management, publishes The Design Management Journal each quarter and
runs an international program of conferences. Regularly drawing sell-out
crowds, these conferences demonstrate the importance placed on design
management by today's international design industry.
Current DMI members number more than 650, and the list of corporate
members reads like a who's who of the business world: AT&T, Bankers
Trust Co, Colgate-Palmolive Co, Eastman Kodak Company, Hewlett-Packard
Co, IBM Corp, Kraft Foods Inc, Procter & Gamble Co, Reebok International
Ltd, Revlon Inc and Xerox.
For the DMI, design is a serious business. Its about strategic
innovation and problem solving solutions which make a business more
competitive and profitable.
Earl Powell, President of DMI and a speaker at SD99, explains the
growing importance of design management, "more than ever before,
companies are relying on design to support their business objectives.
And as the crucial contribution of design gains recognition in the
business community, the place of design management within organizations
is growing and changing."
While Australian designers are beginning to understand the importance of
design management to their practices, the industry as a whole has little
information or research on the impact of design on a business's bottom
line. It is through associations such as the DMI, and thereby the
international network of design management professionals that this
information and research will be made available to us.
By reading the existing case studies and analysing the research models
we can begin to replicate them in our industry, and develop our own body
of research that documents the role Australian design plays in
Australian business success.
Visit their website and start the education process: http://www.dmi.org.