It’s no surprise that the term ‘Design Management’ has sparked much debate, as the two pillars that it is built on; ‘Design’ and ‘Management’, are both far from exact sciences. Design Management is shown to be present in the operational, tactical and strategic levels of organizations. Its goals are either to control a creative process, support a culture of creativity or build a structure for design to function in. The key roles of a Design Manager are to i. Align design strategy with corporate strategy ii. Manage quality & consistency of design outcomes and iii. Develop new methods of user experience through human centered and cross disciplinary design.
Wikipedia takes us through the history of Design Management and talks about its transformation over the years. Design Management first emerged in the early 1900s with Peter Behrens’ vision and work for AEG but the term only first appeared in later years amongst architects. In 1956, IBM is believed to have created the first enterprise wide corporate identity in the US, shifting the paradigm in the way the value of design is perceived. In the ensuing years, different disciplines of design began to flourish bringing with it a method based approach to Design Management. Various consultancies materialized and books on the subject shed further light on it. Today, its extended understanding has grown to include terms such as sustainable, inclusive, interactive, co-create, open innovation and design thinking.
As the definition of Design Management remains in a state of flux, there is much research into how Design’s value to business can be measured. The Danish Design Ladder defines 4 stages of design application in organizations. i.Non-design ii.Design as styling iii.Design as a process iv.Design as innovation. Research has shown that companies in the fourth stage grow more consistently than others. Design Management advocates are constantly looking to find ways of measuring the impact of design. And who knows? Maybe one day there will be a standard commonly accepted across design and business.