Effective design management is often difficult for business owners to define. Marketing managers know the importance design has on branding. Upper management knows the impact design management has on the company’s vision and direction. Manufacturing managers know how deeply integrated effective design management is to work-flow. Product design management is all of these topics and more. The best way to describe product design management is to examine the creation of a single key.
Effective Design Management: Charter
An external force, such as company market position, instigates pressure for a new solution. Market segments need to be unlocked, but the key to open those has yet to be crafted. The engineering studio design manager starts the brainstorm by asking specific probing questions. Even this early in the process, there is a substantial difference between a project manager and design manager. The design manager is not just looking for deliverable acceptance by the principal stakeholder, but for unified value and brand quality for the entire company. This initial charter created is not simply how to unlock a market, but how to produce similar keys in the future.
Effective Design Management: Forming in the Storm
The initial charter is the powder keg. When a full team begins to examine the charter, there is an explosion of ideas. These ideas range from the wildly impractical to sparks of genius, sometimes without much separating the two. These ideas float around the room like a fierce storm. The design manager doesn’t force the flow of ideas towards a direction, but simply grabs particular ideas and tries to hold on. Toward the end of this storm of ideas, the consensus is reached on how this new key will best unlock market share. Rough sketches and formulas adorn the whiteboards like puddles after the rain.
Effective Design Management: Technical Drawings
In this stage, a design engineer is selected to champion the technical drawings. This involves taking those rough sketches and formulas through multiple alterations. They are pulling apart the idea while hunting for flaws and viability. Each revision of the sketch brings the key closer into focus until all the edges and contours are described. The design manager is watching this activity and preparing the tools needed to build a mock-up.
Effective Design Management: Bend Without Breaking
The mock-up stage is focused on malleability and quick feedback. Here the team begins testing the idea behind unlocking market segments while embracing rapid feedback. The design is quickly bent and reshaped in a number of directions. The scientific method comes alive and begins to produce measurable results. Once the lab solution is determined, a larger test awaits the potential solution.
Effective Design Management: Rubber Meets Road
Like the tire coming in contact with the road, the product is released into a real-world trial. Through this stage, potential customers use the test product. Does the product satisfy their need? Is there a safety concern? How difficult was the product to use? Was the product consistent with other products the company has released? A larger trial run may even help reveal market demand.
Effective Design Management: Door Opened
Here the design manager prepares mass initial production and promotion. The launch date for this new market key is set and arrives. However, even after product launch, the design manager watches to see how receptive the market is and how effective the product is at bringing value. At this point, the company has opened a new channel of revenue.
Design management is greater than the sum of its parts. This process is more than developing an initial rough charter. Designing a product is more than brainstorming and building technical drawings. Engineering a product is more than trial runs and promotional releases. This process is about connecting business strategy, brand, and value into a new product. Effective design management is about creating the key in a turn-key solution.