October 31st 2014

Design Management IS important.

Design is more than just a tool, it is also a strategy and in this regard it needs to be managed. This way design becomes powerful.

Definitions of design

There are many definitions of design management, most likely due to the wide variety of contexts and professions that design operates in.

“My definition of design management is harnessing design for a common purpose. This purpose may be industrial and commercial, or it may be social. I believe design management can enhance a company’s performance in four areas:

  1. Products that provide the service
  2. Environments from which the products or service are delivered
  3. Graphics that explain or promote the service or product
  4. Corporate identity that identifies the providers of products or services”

Jeremy Rewse-Davies, Design Director, London Transport

This definition splits design in to four areas, product, environmental, information and corporate Identity. The first three can be perceived as being fairly traditional but the fourth can be opened up much further than as stated here. Corporate identity is closely linked to corporate strategy, it’s more than just a logo.

Design is a broader subject

“A corporate identity expresses the values and beliefs that an organisation stands for, and these values and beliefs will be outlined in the company’s brand and mission statement.”

Kathryn Best
Design Management

Given this wider remit of corporate identity design therefore has a much deeper role to play.

Design management could be described as visual perception management. It contributes to realising strategic goals if it ensures that the organisation’s visual language is consistent, distinct, and relevant for all its internal and external stakeholders. Design management is responsible for the design, implementation, maintenance, and constant evaluation of all items that are part of the total brand experience, from the instruction leaflet to the serviceman’s uniform..”

Fennemiek Gommer, MDM, Scan Management Consultants

From this we see the notion of inclusion of all stakeholders. It does, however, place DM as a contributor to the ‘realisation of strategic goals’ as opposed to a means of creating those strategies.

“Design is critical to achieving corporate mission. This means using design to help provide customers with what they want in a way that adds value to our business. In practical terms, we do this by defining what customers and other stakeholders want, and then by developing the mechanisms for delivering it."
Raymond Turner, Group Design Director, BAA PLC

The customer and ‘other stakeholders’ are placed solidly at the center of the organization. These definitions all hold something in common, that design management is a core part of the corporate mission but it also shows that agreeing upon a single definition is difficult.

“Simply put, design management is the business side of design. Design management encompasses the ongoing processes, business decisions, and strategies that enable innovation and create effectively-designed products, services, communications, environments, and brands that enhance our quality of life and provide organisational success.”

DMI, www.dmi.org

This is the first mention of innovation, it also provides an indication of the sort of things produced which helps us to conceptualise the uses of design management. In the commercial context a definition of design management needs to relate directly to a recognised business need, otherwise the definition sounds like a list of buzz words.

The Cox report addresses this, in part under the UK remaining competitive, by defining three areas; creativity, innovation and design. ‘Creativity’ is the generation of new ideas, ‘innovation’ is the exploitation of those ideas and ‘design’ is the link between the two, it ‘shapes ideas to become practical and attractive propositions for users or customers.’ It moves design into a unique position and makes it tangible.

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