What Is Design Management?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how businesses use design management to create products, attract customers, and more. Discover design manager roles and how to get started in this career.

[Featured image] A design manager with long brown hair and wearing a gray sweatshirt, is standing in front of her desktop in her office. She is wearing a headphone around her neck.

Design management describes how companies incorporate design aspects to help achieve business objectives, create products and services, attract customers, and support marketing efforts. It is essential to companies, and it depends on the industry and design discipline. Design management also offers various career opportunities, advancements, and a competitive salary.

What is design management?

Design management offers a way to apply planning and problem-solving to products, services, brands, and marketing to meet customer needs and business goals. Design management encompasses every design discipline, including graphic design, engineering, architecture, textile, and fashion.

Design management typically operates on various levels. In larger organisations, this can involve an entire team. The typical responsibilities of a design manager are: 

  • Creating a design brief based on client or company needs.

  • Ensuring that designs meet necessary standards, requirements, and specifications.

  • Assisting in setting and managing design budgets.

  • Training and supporting the design management team.

  • Working across teams to meet business goals.

  • Managing designers and assigning responsibilities to meet their skill set.

  • Reviewing designs and requesting changes.

Why does a business need design management?

Design management is essential because businesses can use design elements to stand out from their competition and distinguish themselves from their offering and branding. Its usefulness extends into almost every business aspect, from product development and launch to operations.

Businesses incorporating design management can link their products, business practices, and brands under a unified message connecting with the customer. Design management can help:

  • Improve customer relationships and loyalty 

  • Streamline internal processes 

  • Increase sales while meeting budgets and timelines 

What are the main areas in design management?

Design is an umbrella term that covers many mediums, processes, and disciplines. It can also be applied to several strategies, decisions, and plans; some popular areas include:

  • Brand: A design manager in this area looks at a company’s message and determines how to project that through design. One example is how a business chooses fonts, colour schemes, and tone of voice for social media posts. 

  • Business: Business design applies the design process to business functions. This typically means defining a problem, researching options, brainstorming solutions, building and testing prototypes, and adjusting accordingly. This can help improve efficiency at all levels. 

  • Engineering: Engineering design management is similar to business design. However, it usually applies to technical areas like manufacturing or system design instead of the business.

  • Products: Product design professionals manage processes for developing and launching products. Their work often includes an emphasis on how to build relationships between internal and external collaborators to meet their goals.

  • Services: Service design management extends to the services customers need to use. This requires considering the relationships between all the people using a service and how the design meets the customer's needs. 

How to start a career in design management

To start a career in design management, you should have a bachelor’s degree, although some employees will accept candidates with substantial experience [1]. Common undergraduate degrees include graphic design, fine arts, and design studies. At the master's degree level, you can earn a degree in design management. 

Get higher education.

The qualifications for a career in design management vary depending on where you plan to work. Many designers start by choosing design-focused coursework as part of a business course. This gives you practical experience designing and creating pieces and understanding business practices and models. You may need a master’s degree for some design management jobs. 

Consider certifications.

Earning certifications may enhance your resume in addition to a degree. Through these certificate programmes, you can deepen your understanding of design processes and learn about design management techniques used by top global companies. You can also explore applying design principles to problems, test ideas, and more.

Gain experience.

Experience in design is essential for a career in design management. Many people in the design management field start their careers as designers in their desired industry. This may be construction, architecture, fashion, graphic design, or product design. Your experience helps you develop a strong understanding of the industry.

An entry-level design role may help you build experience and knowledge of business processes, styles, and products. It's also a good opportunity to start your design portfolio and document your work, interests, and achievements. 

Build necessary skills.

You can expect to use both technical and workplace skills in design management. Generally, a design management professional should demonstrate the following skills:

  • Attention to detail

  • Creativity

  • Critical thinking

  • Design skills in the appropriate medium

  • Leadership

  • Listening

  • Problem-solving

  • Project management

  • Teamwork and collaboration

Career progression: How to become a design manager 

To become a design manager, you may start in an entry-level position. This is where you further develop your skills and industry knowledge. From there, you may accept leadership opportunities and move into an entry-level design manager position where you can advance into a senior role.


The average salary for a design manager is ₹12,03,881.  However, your experience level significantly affects the wages you can anticipate. For example, an entry-level design manager with less than a year of experience can expect to earn an average compensation package of ₹5,60,000 [1]. 

A mid-career design manager with five to nine years of experience can earn an average compensation of ₹10,00,000, including overtime, bonus pay, and tips. An employee with 20 years or more can earn an average salary of ₹40,00,000 [1].  

Career paths for design managers

A career in design management can lead to other positions in the design field. Take a look at the titles and salaries in the design field.

  • Associate director, creative services: ₹13,02,620 [2]

  • Creative director: ₹12,74,146 [3]

  • Senior director, creative services: ₹21,40,505 [4]

  • Graphic Designer: ₹3,08,453 [5

Get started 

Are you interested in starting a design management career? If you have experience in the design industry, you’re on the right track and could benefit from gaining more knowledge with a certificate. Consider Product Ideation, Design, and Management Specialisation from the University of Maryland on Coursera. This Professional Certificate covers developing innovative ideas, product management skills, establishing product-market fit, and more.  

Article sources


Payscale. “Average Design Manager Salary in India, https://www.payscale.com/research/IN/Job=Design_Manager/Salary.” Accessed April 25, 2024.

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