Design Management Role in Marketing

Here i’d like to share one of my research reports I did in school.

…just in case.. I re-cited my own writtings:

Dagi, Angela (2012), Design Management Role in Marketing, MADI 5700, De Montfort University, unpublished.


Design Management Role in Marketing


Marketing is actually the most creative division in business, but the traditional marketing thinking has not get really in touch with creative thinking and only have the aim to achieve sales. Marketing nowadays has the aim of achieve sales too, but the competition is getting high and the consumer is getting smart to choose. So the objective of marketing is to engage consumer and design is being used as the strategic driver.

Here, in marketing where business people and designers are being together into multi disciplinary. The researcher has got a big interest with this subject through previous observation in the real industry. Most of clients who contact designers are actually people from marketing division. Company order design to advertising and PR agency for communication themselves effectively and get to brand agency to working together the system of corporate personality both tangible (logo, and the system) and intangible (brand value, people branding, etc). That is why marketers need designers because marketing is dealing with people, corporate needs to manage money, and also corporate need to take care environment. So, here in this research report, through the secondary research, the discussion about the link of design and marketing will be highlighted.

This paper is aimed to discuss and summarize the benefit of design for implementation in marketing as part of business process. The objectives of this research are to discuss the important role of design in marketing and the relation with design management, identify which part of marketing that need designs, and to discuss about applying design thinking for marketing. The research method which has been used is secondary research, comparing and combining the published reading sources from business and design point of view into discussions.

Basically, there will be three topics in this report. It will begin with the discussion about design process. From the discussion about design process, Then design thinking will be the topic to talk about to, following with the discussion about marketing and design

1.     Design process

Design can be explained as the result of the design itself, such as logo, layouts, product design, interior, building architecture, advertisements, the description of design as an action is more applicable. It is because there of terms of design that bring the meaning of creation and planning, such as organization design and service design. Best (2011) in What can design bring into strategy added that design is the activity “to plan”, “to create”, and “to devise”. The researcher would like to agree mentioning design as the process of creation and formation of ideas or design as an action.

In this section, design as a process will be discussed to construct the way of thinking for the next section. Bruce and Cooper (1997) in Marketing and Design Management showed several type of design process in discipline of product, interior and graphic design, but they mention the design process in the same framework, that is 1)contracting, 2)preliminary design, 3)detailed design, and 4)production or implementation. Some expertise of design management gives Design as process is explained further by Mozota (2003) in Design Management as the process of 1) investigating research,  2) exploration, 4) development, 5) realization, and 6) evaluation.

Comparing to Bruce and Cooper stage of design process, Mozota added the process of evaluation at the end of the whole design process. The era of design process has already evolved, that designers and managers start to think about reflecting the process result to be better linking with management. However, the next evolution of design process came from  Best (2010) in The Fundamental of Design Management. She was trying to explain about design process in stages. Those are 1)preparation (curiousity of problem) , 2) incubation (ideas gathering), 3) insight (ideas are evaluated, and some ideas are joined together, 4) evaluation (analyzing each ideas and choose the best one), and 5) elaboration (turning ideas into tangible shape, which is design as “noun”).

There is a fascinating detail we can see in Mozota’s model and Best’s model. Mozota put the“evaluation” process after the “realization”, while Best put “evaluation” before “elaboration”, which actually has similar process which Mozota’s “realization”. Best seems has already “revised” it to switch the process. The researcher agreed with what Best had done. Evaluation process before realizing the ideas might result cost savings because it will cut the cost of failed prototyping and ineffective manufacture. Design Council (2005) However, the researcher would suggest that the process of evaluation should be after every process done so the process of design process will be a reflection process, go back again and again.

The Design council (2005) framework of design process is more technical and has more emphasizes in clients contacts and role of design management, especially at the beginning of process (discover and define stage). This model explained about design process which also useful for managing client relation and multidisciplinary team because it shows the contact between clients, design manager, design team. This model is also explain clear the global stage the design process are in also detailed process where design management is needed rather than only typical design process by designer. In  this process of assistency with business people actually even can be done several times, depends on what needed or the agreements between clients and designers. So, actually the researcher suggests that design process should be circular to back again in discussions and the brief. That is why designers and business should be work together in multidisciplinary team, to complete each other.

There are two things that researcher spot from design process. A good design process is about 1) team work, multidisciplinary team, and human resources strategy, and 2) good communication among team and constructive evaluation. These points lead to cost savings and efficiency of working also leads to good design as result which satisfies all stakeholders (clients, designers, and end consumers). However, the question is what is the differences between human resources strategy applied in project management or what a typical managers do?

Design Thinking vs Business Thinking

To answer the question before, the researcher tried to discuss about how the designer think and work in trough design process. Brown (2008) and Best (2011) have similar thought about design thinking that is putting emphasize in “people” which means bringing empathy and humanity into both the ongoing process and the result. People who related into a design project are the client, end consumers, and also the team as stakeholders.

The challenge of this statement is sometimes people have unspoken thought, needs,  and expectation. That is why designer usually asks a lot of questions (Warren, 2010), even a silly questions, to find where the key of problem according to working as efficient as they can, also to please clients, and also thinking about the end consumers so the designers can create a good design. However, another angle on this debate suggests that people based thinking already used in management activity as thinking about the stakeholder. So what is the special thing about design thinking?

Martin (2009) in The design of business mentioned about abductive reasoning as design thinking, but Neumeier (2009) in Designful Company explain more about it.  When something happen in business, they have exactly what is the tool to encounter the problem (if “x” happen, then you should do “y”). While in design thinking they are more flexible in encountering a problem inside the management as finding the gaps that is called strategy. In other ways, the way for filling the gaps is where the creative thinking fills. So, design thinking is about how to use creativity for problem solving, think out of the box of the solutions, rather than do “equation

The Theory is impractical and may rise more questions and criticize. The explanation is not strictly clear about where abductive reasoning is put. The researcher is trying to deliver it into the other way. It could be biased depends on the background of the researcher. Giving example can be a good suggestion about explaining design thinking in this way.  Inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning are already mentioned for managing the ideas which is already applied in both design and business process. However where and how abductive thinking applied as design thinking should be seen further more.

According to what Abbing (2010) in Brand Driven Innovation said, design thinking is using both of creativity (right brain) and logic (left brain). If creative thinking sees in holistic, business sees in detail focused of part of problem, design thinking is about zooming in and out the problem. However, it is all about things that we should combine it in business process. That is why in a business school, they taught the students about creativity, innovation, and decision analysis which leads into constructing strategic business. Creative problem solving has already adapted in developing strategy.

The debate from business thinking

Business has tools to develop strategy such as Six Sigma with DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, interpret, and control) or 3 stages developing QSPM of generating and choosing strategy  (David (2009) in Strategic Management) but when it is about working under the framework, ideas should be generated, measured, and then generating strategy. Neumeier (2009) in Designful Company explained that design thinking was invented to beat six sigma. However, the design process itself has similar flow with six sigma. Let just say Mozota’s framework of design process as the example. Investigating research and exploration are part of defining and measuring problem in management strategy, exploration and development are part of analysis, and realization stage is action and improvement, and evaluation as the process of controlling. Creativity is absolutely needed because logic is not enough. That is why business person needs creative people to work together in a multidisciplinary team.

The researchers may give criticism about the thinking from design side authors. Most of sources argue that business thinking has already blocked the creativity by giving too static logic in a frameworks and tools of thinking. The failure of design thinking is also already mentioned by Collopy (2011) in Fast Company article. He mentioned that design thinking is actually survival movement that a manager do. Design thinking was mentioned as trial and not best suit in every personal style. The used of design thinking is depend on the circumstances.

It may be controversial with design background people, but new business thinking has already put design thinking unconsciously because of the awareness of needs to compete others in the trend of creative world. The most creative industry who keep innovate will be succeed, such as Apple, Samsung, L’oreal, and they keep compete in terms of invention of new program , new way of marketing. Social media marketing strategy may be the example of how business be flexible of looking into an opportunity by studying the evolution people behavior nowadays. Nowadays, when a business cannot apply design thinking which is blending and adjusting creativity into logic and system, they will left behind

Marketing and design

Marketing in business has aim in gaining profit from sales. This is even been emphasized by Moriarty (2009) in Advertising, but marketing bring it with heart as just like people connection. The second aim is market share (Heally, 2004) because if the company win the large portion of consumers, they will win large number of sales which means successful marketing.

Here the researcher see is as the challenge to relate with design, because people are organic creatures. This is leads to the needs of design thinking in marketing because as brown said before, design thinking is about people. Here is the relation between business and design thinking. Business needs to catch people as aim, while design thinking is being the “vehicle” of communication.

Salomon, et al (2009) in Marketing: real, people, real choice from the business side of thinking that marketing is about meeting consumer’s needs, adding the value of the goods through the benefit to play in the stakeholders thought to make the stakeholder get engaged and interested.  So, the activity component that is mentioned in marketing process are 1) creating,2)  communicating , 3) value delivering, and 4) relationship management. This is related to the designer side of thinking where they provide design management  as the solution for helping  (Best, 2006).Design Management emphasizes about gaining market opportunities by managing and creating added value to create differentiation. The most obvious role of design for this case is design as differentiator. Integrator, and good business (Mozota, 206) which can be through the design as noun or results, such as (Ward and Dekker, 2009) brand identity, product, service creation, and user experience.

This may be concluded that product or brand have to be communicated uniquely and outstandingly in consumers mind so they can feel it different with others competitor and start to pay attention of it. Moreover meeting the consumer needs is also being underlined so the consumers get the eager to have the product or engage with the brand because they need it. Most of clients who come to design agency are doing it from their marketing activity.

Problem faced by marketers and designers

They are 4 problems faced when marketing is working with design according to Bruce & Cooper (1993), such as 1) marketing do not understand design process, 2) lack of clear information from designer, 3) little mutual respect, and 4) no co-ordination with sales and marketing research. However, such expositions are unsatisfactory because it was 1993 when the problem is mentioned.

To overcome the problems, nowadays, when market do not understand design process and when there is lack of mutual respects between designer and marketing, this can be the evidence of there are communication that is needed. Design management is the solution. Design management is the special kind of management which have design thinking and understanding of both language, design language and business language (Abbing, 2010) and leadership strategy of multidisciplinary team. Design management is also about project management which considered time and money management, risk management, and developing the right strategy facing the current problem. By having design management, the designers can face the marketers with the same language and also transfer the language of the business into the designers so the communication is perfectly made.

Lack of clear information for designers and no coordination with sales and market research can be solved by a good brief. Design brief is the document which can deliver the language of marketing with good evidence. Philips (2004) in writing a perfect design brief said that a good design brief should deliver business strategy as the reason and design strategy as the aim of the problem solver. Specific target market for end customers as the main object of the design aim for , project overview and category as the detail of the deadlines, and budget control also have to be described clearly to get good information for both parties, marketers and designers. So both parties can refers back to design brief. The important thing is marketers should define what information the designers will need. Good information will leads to findings and evaluation. Working the brief together can be a good solution so the communication which is needed will be noticed.

Here the researcher would concluded that when designers working with marketers, the designers need to have design management skills or design manager, while marketers need to have design thinking. These findings are strengthened by Clark and Smith (2008) in Design in SME. However, Clark & Smith also argue that designers should have long understanding in user experience element to increase interaction between product and customer interaction. The problem of this view is designer should need more information especially about information from business side. Why marketers should have design thinking is to get the right information for designers by imagining what they need for better improvement


Design process in general has the process of gathering information, generating ideas, the realization of ideas, and evaluation. The process is actually same as six sigma of business: define, measure, analyze, implement, control but in the case of design project. However, evaluation after every process is needed for linking back to design brief that means working on together with the client as business part in multidisciplinary team.

Design thinking is based on people oriented. People who have design thinking may able to conduct multidisciplinary team. Design thinking is also defined as the blend of business thinking and creative thinking. Yet, business thinking already adapt design thinking because people from business side start to aware about competitiveness in market because it is already proven that the more creative a organization, the more possible of the organization to be succeed and win the market.

Marketing is the part of business which has more touch point with design. Product, packaging, brand, and logo, service design when it is about product, design is used as communicator when it is related with about marketing price strategy and promotion of marketing communication such as advertising, and design such as interior architecture, and web design are used related with place strategy. There are also problem faced between marketers and designer which mostly in terms in communication problems. The solution to encounter the problems are 1) the used of design management by designers, 2) the used of design thinking by marketers, and 3) good design brief to refer back as good information for designers. Business and design needs each other to complete each other in multidisciplinary team in developing strategy, implementing business strategy, and the evaluation of business strategy related to design strategy. Both of parties actually need to complete each other.


Through this research, there are future research opportunity is being recognized such as the other possibility role of design management in business management in more strategic level. The researcher realize that design management and design thinking can be implement is other business process . The other function of design management in corporate is can also be seen as the new research opportunity.

The discussion about current shape of business thinking is also interesting to be raised. Since design thinking already be discussed since years ago, and good businessman will absolutely learn something about it and adsorb it to be more competitive. As an example, blending the internal agency involved into more strategic level or having creative managers such as chief of innovation officers or chief of brand officers. Even now in business schools, the students were taught about innovation and think innovative.

The differences between business management and design management can also become raised. If the content of design management such as people oriented, multidisciplinary team, and design process and project management are already been implement inside business management. So, what is the key differences between business management and design management. The special key of design management and newest issues of design management is also supported for the next research question



Lockwood, Thomas (2010) Design Thinking: integrating innovation, customer experience, and brand value. New York: Allworth Press

Brown, Tim (2009), Change by design: how design thinking transform organizations and inspires innovations, New York: Harper Collins

Abbing, Erik (2010), Brand-Driven Innovation: strategic for development and design, Switzerland: AVA Publishing

Best, Kathryn (2006), Design Management: Managing design strategy, process, and implementation, Switzerland: AVA Publishing

Best, Kathryn (2010), The Fundamental of Design Management, Switzerland: AVA Publishing

Martin, Roger (2009), The Design of Business,: Why design thinking is the next competitive advantage, Boston: Harvard Business Press

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Bruce, Margaret and Rachel Cooper (1997), Marketing and Design Management, London: International Thomson Business Press

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Healy, Denevieve (2004), Strategic Marketing Analysis, 2nd ed,  Victoria: Thomson

David, Fred (2011), Strategic Management, 13th ed, New Jersey: Prentice Hall


Brown, Tim (2008), Design Thinking, Harvard Business Review June 1st 2008, p. 1-9

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Clark, Kevin and Ron Smith (2008), Unleashing The Power of Design Thinking, Design Management Institute Journal, 19(3), p8-15

Best, Kathryn (2011), What can Design Bring to Strategy?: Design Thinking as a Tool Innovatino and Change, In: lector at Centre for Applied Research in Brand, Reputatino, and Design Management (CBRD) at Inholland University of Applied Science, Rotterdam


Warren, Berger (2010), The Four Phases of Design Thinking. [Online]. Available from http:// our_phases_of _design_thin.html, [Accessed: 11 /16/12]

Collopy, Fred (2009), Lessons Learned — Why the Failure of Systems Thinking Should Inform the Future of Design Thinking. [Online]. Available from: http:// www.…/lessons-learned-why-failure-systems-thinking-should-inform-future-design-thi… [Accessed: 11/16/12]/

Design Council (2012), Design Process [Online]. Available from:…/designprocess.  [Accessed 11/12/12]


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