Design agencies as big and successful as designaffairs cover a variety of services which often exceed just designing the appearance of products. Not only do they offer competencies in designing hardware, they also have experience in software and service design. However, design affairs focus on the development of strategies that fit a company and its products. In order to reach this goal, expertise in research, technology assessment as well as material science and engineering might be needed. That is why those agencies employ experts with different backgrounds and can often rely on a broad network of partners in different industries.
As a whole, I can imagine that the actual competencies needed vary with every design project. However, there is always a challenge of combining creativity with an understanding of brands and brand development, technical possibilities as well as scientific approaches remain the same. In my opinion, a design agency has to be flexible and needs to focus in a broader way, so they are able find contingencies and create a solution that meets all the requirements for a strategic fit and a holistic result.
What does a design manager do in a design agency?
The primary role of a design manager is to provide leadership for his team of designers throughout the course of a pilot project. He often acts as an intermediary between his client, business manager and designers.
A design manager could lead a team of designers on the development of a product's brand, or manages an architectural firm while designing a new building. Even though the industries can differ considerably, the essential job duties are basically the same. These include identifying client project needs, communicating a project outline to his design staff, supervising staff members, providing assistance when necessary and monitoring budget.
Perhaps the most important part of being a design manager is effectively identifying his client's needs for each project. In order to deliver the best possible product, design or brand, he must first get a clear idea of what his client's exact specifications are. For example, if he was designing the packaging for a mobile brand, he would need to find out information like what type of mobile it is, whether it's for teenagers, elders or any age, t
he size of the package and what colors to use. It's essential for a design manager to know this information before beginning any other stages of the design process.
Once he is certain of the client's specifications, a design manager must develop a project outline and communicate it with his design staff and the agency. During this phase, he will explain the client's requests to the other designers. After this, everyone will usually spend some time brainstorming in order to figure out the optimal approach.
The design manager must always be aware of his client's budget and make sure that he isn't exceeding it. Throughout the design process, he must keep an eye on expenses, including the design team's salaries and supplies. The design itself, whether of an advertisement, a product, or a facility, must also be able to be produced within the budget specified by the client.
Another integral part of his job includes supervising staff members. Since the design manager is the leader of the group, it's up to him to keep everyone on task and get the maximum effort from all designers. Throughout this process, he may divide the group into smaller units to work on different aspects of the project. He will also provide assistance when necessary if a staff member is experiencing difficulty. All the while, the design manager will usually keep both his client and business manager updated on the progress of the project.
Are competencies enough to meet the future challenges?
To my mind, the challenge of designing solutions that let the user experience the whole strategy and values of the company behind them, is becoming more and more difficult. Not only does the technical complexity of many products rise constantly, also the product lifecycles are getting faster and faster. On top of that, trends tend to change more rapidly and with the influence of globalization and the fast information exchange over the internet, they become harder to predict. So on the one hand it becomes more difficult to design products/a product strategy that is flexible enough to cope with trends in the industry. On the other hand, more and more specific knowledge is needed to create products, brands and services that exceed the high expectations of the customer. Design agencies will need young ambitious people, technology experts and lateral thinkers who are able to see these challenges as possibilities. Moreover, I think that the importance of outside factors like customer expertise, partnerships and knowledge-on-demand will significantly rise. A proper management of those aspects might give the agencies the power to cope with it.
The major structure of a design agency: