I learned design management from the bottom up at Philips: after several years of intensive design work on medical systems, lighting fixtures, and consumer electronics, I have devoted myself increasingly to management tasks. It was immediately clear to me that the quality of design can only ever be as good as the quality of the underlying value chain and the organization implementing it – rubbish in is rubbish out! Ever since I have aimed to strengthen the framework of design to enable the strength of design to unfold!
In my last position at Philips, being responsible for the design work of consumer electronics peripherals, I was able to establish design as a strategic tool in my role as a member of the management board. Design was, therefore, not only the work of designers but foremost a conscious management decision to achieve a precise and consistent market presence. All members of the board were carrying design responsibility, and along with this collective responsibility came business success. Unfortunately, this phase came to an early end, which again showed me how fragile design thinking is and how tempting the rational management thinking: you have to be genuinely committed to sustaining creativity and design. For design to become and remain a corporate attitude, it takes far more than capable designers; it needs the acceptance and cooperation of the entire organization.
After a short trip to Deutsche Telekom, where I tried to create the framework conditions for qualitative design, I decided to take the step into self-employment. Not because my efforts at Telekom didn’t find much response, but mainly because I want to pass on my experience to young, up-and-coming designers and managers. Besides, I can now advise those companies, which recognise that design needs good management and that their organisation equally needs a suitable design. Designing the right management is more important than managing the right design! And this is a big challenge for many companies: You can only achieve Apple’s design quality if you establish organisational quality like Apple.
I have gathered my experience from working over many years at the intersection between design and management in various publications and lectures. You can find many articles on my blog – you will notice that my work in organisations has been quite educational for me! Maybe that’s why these might be an inspiration for you as well.
In my book “Leading Design” I mainly target managers and aim to give them methods and knowledge to manage design effectively.