What is design management?

Searching for “design management” in the internet delivers thousands of results:

  • Designdirectory: 1.445 agencies
  • DMI: 2.126 members
  • Amazon: 5.489 books
  • WordPress: 194.501 blogs
  • Google: 1.160.000 websites
  • Bing: 612.000.000 websites

Design management is multifaceted and there are many different perspectives on the definition of design management. In 45 years, we still haven’t come to an universal definition. But fortunately there are some commonalities in the opinion of different design management professionals.

Take for example the design management definition by Prof. Peter McGrory, Aalto University that was agreed on by the DME network partners to use as a working definition:

Design management is the cultural, strategic and operational use of the design resources (internal and external) available to an organisation, directed towards the creation and attainment of business and organisational objectives.

This definition sounds very familiar to the definition by Peter Gorb in the 1980’s and his more recent extended definitions.


Design management is the effective deployment of design resources to achieve corporate objectives.

The extended definition by Peter Gorb reads as follows:

Design management is the effective deployment by line managers of the design resources available to an organization in the pursuance of its corporate objectives. It is therefore directly concerned with the organizational place of design, with the identification with specific design disciplines which are relevant to the resolution of key management issues, and with the training of managers to use design effectively.

Another definition of design management can be found on the DMI website, stressing the same elements:

Simply put, design management is the business side of design. Design management encompasses the ongoing processes, business decisions, and strategies that enable innovation and create effectively-designed products, services, communications, environments, and brands that enhance our quality of life and provide organizational success.

Have we finally come to a consensus on how to best define our relatively young discipline? To stimulate the discussion, I started a Wikipedia article on design management in 2005 and continuously update it.

Please feel invited to co-define it and help to create a better understanding of design management, in: