What is Design Management? (studying at Masters level)

I have been leading the MA Design Management programme at Coventry University (UK) for the last two years and I often get asked ‘what is design management?’. It’s easy to understand what a design course is, or what a management course is, but putting them together leads to quizzical looks aplenty. It also took me quite a while to develop my response. I had been teaching design management at Winchester School of Art since 2016, and have an MPhil in Design Management myself, and yet the subject is so broad it is difficult to give a meaningful answer. I settled on this (at least for what I do):

The design management course at Coventry is twofold. First, we teach the social, cultural and economic context of the multidisciplinary creative industries – covering topics such as consumer culture, digitalisation, marketing and user experience. Second, we teach project management skills and methods in a design context – covering topics such as people management, project planning and budgeting.

I also particularly like this definition from the Design Management Institute:

“design management seeks to link design, innovation, technology, management and customers to provide competitive advantage across the triple bottom line: economic, social/cultural, and environmental factors. It is the art and science of empowering design to enhance collaboration and synergy between “design” and “business” to improve design effectiveness.”

Extract from Yichen Sun’s final major project.

Developing a foundation for effective design thinking is also an aspect of design management. Design thinking has become a hot topic in a wide range of industries over the last few years. People who you think creatively are in demand. Design thinking is just creative problem solving. We do a lot of design thinking on the course – thinking about a problem or opportunity from a holistic perspective. Whether a charity is working to tackle homelessness in the community, or a drinks’ company wants to expand into a new market, design thinking and hence design management skills, can help stakeholders reach their goals.

Since taking over leadership of the course I have also introduced more content on user experience (or UX). This is because user experience is a real area of growth. UX researchers and developers are in great demand. UX focuses on digital platforms and user needs and goals related to these platforms. We therefore learn how to create user personas, scenario maps and customer journey maps to get inside the head of users and customers.

Example of DM work on user journey mapping (Jesslyn Ngawi)

The MA design management course at Coventry is multidisciplinary and students have the opportunity to specialise in the third term by focusing on their own self-directed final major project. The first two terms include collaborative modules, where students have the opportunity to develop skills of teamwork and leadership, working with a diverse cohort of students from across the world. Whether students have a design background themselves or come from the social sciences/business arena, they have the opportunity to observe and reflect on designers at work and engage with industry throughout the year. Along with communication and collaboration, these are key transferable skills that help students to achieve their future goals.

You can view the work of previous postgraduates from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities on our online Postgraduate Showcase.

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