PARK’s James Hall on the importance of management, leadership, strategy and value
By Kernan Andrews
Design is a “vital tool” which can “bring value to an organisation”, but it “only boosts business performance when it is well managed”.
His talk covered the qualities needed for design management and leadership; how a good strategy can connect design to business goals; and the importance for designers of knowing how to articulate the value of their ideas.
Management and Leadership
While design managers and leaders both need to “rally the team and stakeholders to achieve certain clear corporate objectives”, they do so in different ways: managers focus “on people completing tasks”, while leaders “align everyone around a shared and inspiring vision”.
For Mr Hall, good management practices “apply to all disciplines of design” and require strategic, tactical and operational thinking, with successful managers being adept in negotiating the different business cultures found within different industries, and being able to “connect the realms of design and business”.
Characteristics of a successful design leader include achieving outstanding results for their business/client; a “huge capacity for work”; integrity and self-motivation; ability to see the bigger picture; willingness to collaborate and connect different stakeholders; being “keen to learn”; and openness to “sparring with other leaders” in order to “keep fresh”.
Such management and leadership can result in a company leading their industry with design; a director or VP converting management to using design as a strategic asset; a design manager convincing other departments of a design vision that may not exist yet; or a design agency changing the design course of their client.
Prior to becoming co-owner of PARK, Mr Hall was Acting VP of Design at Hasbro and before that, Senior Concept Manager at Lego. He used his own experience at the Danish toy giant to illustrate his point that “design strategy is the mother of all design management activities”.
In 2004, Lego, under the then CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, developed corporate, business, and departmental strategies for the toy giant. Mr Hall was part of the design leadership team which was tasked with supporting innovation and to achieve this, they examined the corporate strategy and created a “design strategy version of the corporate strategy” aligning both to plan for growth.
This very successful approach showed how a design strategy can have “impact and value” and “help achieve overarching goals in a business context”. In such a scenario, he said, good management practice will “look to understand the context and links to other strategies in branding, marketing, and the supply chain”; create a “roadmap of activities’; be open to adjust the design strategy along the way; and communicate that on a regular basis.
Design Strategy and Design Value
Mr Hall noted that design not only has aesthetic value, but also functional, emotional and societal value. The challenge is for designers to effectively communicate and convince businesses of those values.
“How can you talk about the return on investments of design?” Mr Hall asked. “Our job as managers and leaders is to justify that value, get proof and deliver economical value to the company and to end users.”
He said PARK’s own academy places emphasis on return on investments and asks such questions as: Are you increasing turnover? Are you reducing costs? Are you making more tangible assets?
Mr Hall said these were important questions for design leaders to be able to answer when communicating their ideas to businesses as “concrete justifications in investments in design are needed continuously in terms that business people understand.”
Want to dig deeper into Design Management and Design Leadership?
Avail of Design Skillnet’s subsidised fees on the next intake of our nine-month Design Management Professional Management – Transforming leaders of design & driving business growth, developed by PARK Academy.
Want to learn more about James’ role as the Design Management Professional Diploma Course Director? Read our Q&A with James Hall where he answers the most commonly asked questions about the Design Management Professional Diploma and walks you through the programme’s structure and content.
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