Design Management and Strategy

The professional MA in Design with a concentration in Design Management and Strategy at the University of Kansas educates students in the theory, methods, and practices relevant to managing design in an organizational and business context. The program affords students the requisite knowledge to augment their own professional skills and abilities, perform as effective design managers, and advance their careers. Courses are offered at both the Lawrence and Edwards campuses to accommodate the schedules of working professionals.

“Design,” according to Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, “is not incidental to modern economies, but integral; not part of success but at the heart of success; and not a sideshow, but the centerpiece.”1  Indeed, design management has been described as “applied innovation.” By capturing talent and resources available inside and outside an organization, design managers are instrumental in helping organizations create new value in products, services, environments, and user experiences. Paraphrasing David Kelly, CEO of IDEO, a leading product innovation firm, design is a powerful source of differentiation in the marketplace.2

Successful companies manage design in order to strengthen brand identities, fend off low-cost competition, reap the benefits of new technologies, renew connections to the customer, and foster a culture of innovation. More companies are looking to design managers for leadership in coping with rapid change. That leadership comes in the form of new innovation strategies and ways of producing fitter, more customer-relevant offerings.

The MA program in Design Management and Strategy at KU explores in depth the design function in business as an important integrative, and often interdisciplinary, area of work. The curriculum couples a rigorous, practical understanding of business with design’s natural capacity for handling diverse inputs, creative problem solving, and human-centered understanding. The program seeks both full-time and part-time students. It is developed for prospective students who already hold a design related baccalaureate degree and who are seeking specialized study in this management discipline. Program applicants should have at least two years of full-time professional work experience in design or in a design-related field.

The Master’s student in the Design Management concentration should evidence an advanced ability to problem solve, work in teams, manage processes, communicate clearly, and produce excellent goal-directed outcomes. The holder of the Master’s degree will have completed at least 31 credit hours of coursework, a thesis that documents independent discovery and research, and will have passed an oral examination on the outcomes of that work.

1. Speech at the opening reception of the London Design Festival, National Gallery, London, 19 September 2005.
2. Kelly, David, "18 Views On the Definition of Design Management,” Design Management Journal, Summer 1998, P. 14.