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What is Design Management, and how will it make you a better business leader?

NU Design Management


More and more business leaders are adopting design management strategies to solve business problems and introduce customer-focused design that works.

Find out how Northumbria’s  Design Management MA can drive leadership, sustainability and innovation within your business.

Think of design management, and visions of monotonous teams of designers working together on the production of design-led projects might come to mind.

In reality, design management is widely recognised as a game-changer for business leaders. Over the past two decades, successful brands like Apple, Tesla and BT have all used design management as a guiding business principle to create winning strategy and hone their competitive edge.

What is Design Management and Why Does it Matter?

Design management is defined by The Design Management Institute as a solution that “seeks to link design, innovation, technology, management and customers to provide competitive advantage.” Design management is a strategic tool that has been adopted holistically by some of the globe’s most successful businesses  to ensure that they continue to drive innovation.

A study from the Design Management Institute highlights that design-focused businesses like Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Procter & Gamble exceeded the performance of most S&P 500 companies by 219% over a ten-year period by using design management tools. Design management principles drive these companies to deploy design staff and practices over all major business units. This ensured that design was elevated as a key strategic enabler and resource for innovation and change.

Essentially, design management allows business leaders and entrepreneurs to take a pragmatic view of problem solving and incorporate design thinking in the organisation.  This enables commercial environments to work efficiently across all parts of their business.

From Simple Product Design to Creating a Human-Centric Business

A key lesson business leaders can learn from design management, is how to put customer needs first. The needs of end users are put forward so that they foster a problem-solving ethos within the organisation. This ethos runs across all aspects of the business, from marketing to HR. According to McKinsey,  “with this focus, design becomes a tool for change, capable of transforming the way companies do business, hire talent, compete, and build their brand.” Brands like Apple and Netflix  have embraced design management tools in practice to fuel their success.

Does Studying Design Management Make You a Better Leader?

Key principles that business leaders in SMEs and start-ups can learn include leadership, sustainability and innovation, all which can provide holistic benefits for the business. From the approach outlined above, it’s clear that design management isn’t only the domain of designers. All aspects of the business can benefit from having a strong understanding in design management. Design management courses can give business leaders key lessons in:

  1. Improving innovation cycles – by eschewing the slow traditional product development process in favour of more agile, flexible methods.
  2. Putting customers first – by getting closer to their end users to determine how a problem or issue affects them, in order to create a product or solution that improves their lives or enhances their experience of the business.
  3. Creating more effective strategy – by adopting design management methodologies to help find fresh solutions to organisational challenges, building a bridge between traditional business disciplines and the creative world of design to find a better way of doing something.
  4. Fostering a positive organisational culture – by using design-focused management skills to create a culture that’s both nurturing (recognising that it’s rare to get things right first time) and encouraging, giving employees the confidence to put forward new ideas without the risk of losing face.

Become a Strategic Leader Through Design Management

Northumbria School of Design are committed  to helping students learn key design management skills to drive growth and innovation within their organisations. Their online distance learning Design Management Masters accepts students from all backgrounds, with no previous experience needed . Additionally, studying with Northumbria University allows students to pay on a module by module basis. This is your Design Management course, your way.

Plus, Northumbria has a tried and tested record of developing design management talent and have a well-recognised alumni list including Rob Law MBE, founder of Trunki, Sir Jony  Ive, former chief designer of Apple products such as the iPad and iMac.

Be a strategic leader. Learn more about how Northumbria’s Design Management MA will help you to unlock innovative solutions in your business.



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