Design Management


What is Design Management? 

Design Management is strategic design. A strategy is “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” Synonyms are master plan, grand design, game plan, plan (of action), policy,  program, tactics. Strategic is therefore “relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them; carefully designed or planned to serve a particular purpose or advantage. Synonyms are planned, calculated, tactical, politic, judicious, prudent, shrewd.

Design Management connects the world of design and the world of business via the study and application of Design Thinking methods. The program is focused on building the professional management capacity of individuals in design, marketing, service delivery, or business who want to lead in project management of communications, products, and services.

Design Management helps leaders use creative processes and strategic analysis that result in innovative solutions to real-world business challenges. This is achieved through Design Thinking, a process that emphasizes creativity, teamwork, and customer-centric research tools. Students will learn to solve problems using the Triple Bottom Line: equal emphasis on the creation of social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and financial sustainability. This balance is often referred to as “People, Planet, and Profits.”

Design Management powers systemic thinking and builds holistic understanding to address, solve, and implement solutions.

Design management is a problem-solving process that enables innovation and creates well-designed products, services, communications, environments, and brands that enhance the quality of life and provide organizational success. Design management applies design thinking – a 6-step exploratory solution-finding process – to business problems.

Wikipedia says: Design thinking refers to the methods and processes for investigating ill-defined problems, acquiring information, analyzing knowledge, and positing solutions in the design and planning fields. As a style of thinking, it is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context.”

These are the six core aspects of design and business:

  • Leadership Working with teams and championing an idea.
  • Strategy Developing concepts and design elements that align with a company’s core plan of action.
  • Marketing Understanding product and package design, promotion, and physical plant design.
  • Operations Identifying, understanding, and influencing efficient operational practices.
  • Finance Comprehending annual reports, cash flow statements, and balance sheets.
  • Legal Protecting an organization’s intellectual property like trademarks, copyrights, and patents.

DM links design, innovation, technology, management, and customers to provide a competitive advantage across the “triple bottom line”: social/cultural, environmental, and economic (People, Planet, Profits).

DM advocates design across an organization as a key differentiator and driver of organizational success. Design managers lead design firms and design teams in creative industries. DM incorporates design thinking, service design, and sustainability in the production and management of information, services, and experiences.

  • The Six-Step Design Thinking Process: Approaches, Tools, and Methods This introductory course defines the 6-Step Design Thinking process to achieve innovative solutions that address the Triple Bottom Line: Financial Sustainability, Social Responsibility, and Environmental Sustainability. The course covers the variety of approaches, tools, and methods used in Design Thinking’s individual processes.
  • Ethnographic Research and Expert Naiveté Students work in interdisciplinary teams with one client each semester. Empathy for the client and the client’s multiple constituencies lead to direct research of human needs and recognition of one’s own inherent beliefs. The course emphasizes team collaboration, leadership, and developing written and personal presentation skills.
  • Environmental Sustainability Design Management has three core principles, the “Triple Bottom Line” that must be in balance for an optimal solution. One of the three, Environmental Sustainability, is examined in this course.
  • Financial Sustainability Building on the foundation formed in Ethnographic Research and Expert Naiveté, students will again be grouped in interdisciplinary teams to complete an innovative, client-based project. An emphasis in this course is placed on financial profitability and sustainability in the context of the Triple Bottom Line.
  • Research and Strategy This course addresses research methods in preparation for preparing a thesis proposal and the thesis itself. Strategy, an action plan to achieve a goal, is a significant aspect of the implementation of Design Thinking.
  • Collaboration, Culture, and Leadership This course continues to equip students with the skills they need to work with cross-specialist teams on real world, client-based assignments. Students will focus on ways to collaborate, develop a culture of innovation, and be a motivating leader.
  • The Triple Bottom Line: Thesis This capstone course requires students, working independently or in small teams, to research and write about an idea that explores and addresses the Triple Bottom Line. Theses discuss Strategy, Innovation, Profitability, Social Responsibility, Sustainability, Marketing, Leadership, Finance, Operations, and Legal.
  • Innovation and Implementation This course places fourth-semester students in leadership positions on the collaborative teams, working with their team and with the other team leaders. Specific attention is given to the culture of innovation and the barriers to implementation.

This is what the Design Management Institute (, says Design Management is:

What is Design Management? is a one-page reading from the Design Management Institute’s website (

Here are some action shots of Design Management education at the University of Bridgeport:

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