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Title: A place for design in management education

Pages: 38 - 43 (images Professor L Bruce Archer)

                  

Author: L.Bruce Archer

Text: A place for design in management education?
There is now a steady flow of trained designers into industry. But are these designers being skilfully managed so that they can produce the most effective results? An examination of management courses shows that little time is given in most of them to the management of creative design work and of innovation generally. In 1965, the Council of Industrial Design raised the problem of design management in a joint meeting at the 'Financial Times' between management consultants and industrial designers. Since then, the ColD has joined some of the marketing conferences of leading consultants, and has taken part in a few management courses.
In the following article, L.Bruce Archer argues the case for including design as a subject in management courses and comments on the reactions to this view of some principals and course directors at selected business management schools. In a subsequent article, J. Noel White, deputy director, ColD, who is a council member of the National Marketing Council, will discuss the practical aspects of design management which concern industrial organisations. These aspects include the relationship of a company's innovation policy to its product development programme; the organisation of an efficient and speedy flow of information from market and technical research into the design department in a usable form; and the appropriate location of the design department in a company's management structure. If business schools are to include design management in their curricula these questions must first be answered in broad outline.
The principal object of any normal company with shareholders is to make a profit. Indeed, many other institutions, such as nationalised industries, even though they have no shareholders, must conduct themselves as if they were in business to make a profit.
A manufacturing company makes its profit by manipulating materials into more valuable forms -that is, by producing artifacts which command a higher value in exchange than their intrinsic or manufactured tend marketed) cost. One could argue further that, to be commercially viable, the one irreducible quality that a product must have - whether beautiful or ugly, efficient or inefficient, durable or transitory - is a value in exchange which is greater than its manufactured and marketed cost.
But what constitutes value in exchange ? A product is worth what people are willing to pay for it. The qualities which a purchaser seeks and values may be summarised as utility, singularity and/or emotivity. Perhaps one should also add availability. The term 'utility' covers concepts such as the need for food, the convenience of a lawnmower and the earnings from a machine tool. The term 'singularity' embraces meanings such as the scarcity of antiques, the uniqueness of a painting, and the individuality of a dress. The term 'emotivity' describes the beauty of a textile, the covetability of a jewel and the status symbolism of a motor car.
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The design profession has been singularly inarticulate about design policy and design management/ Dr S.K.Manstead, deputy principal, Ashbridge Management College, Berkamsted.
And what constitutes cost ? This is the outlay on materials, processes, labour, power, transport, promotion, research and development, plant, premises, and the servicing of capital - all of which may be discerned in the product as the quality of economy. Where a product exhibits appropriate degrees of economy, plus the qualities which constitute value, then a profit is made. Moreover, where this profit is made by the conversion of raw materials into more valuable forms, especially where the quality of utility is present, new wealth is created - to the benefit of the user and the community at large, as well as of the producer. The accounting of the effects of variations in these qualities is the technique of logistics, a recognised marketing and management tool. The provision of these qualities is design.
But to determine more precisely which qualities are needed in the design of a product, questions of strategy and tactics must be considered. If we have conceived a radically new idea, how far should we go in perfecting and testing it before going on to the market? Should we introduce our new designs at the avant-garde end of the market, taking as big a mark-up as the market will stand, and recovering our research, design, development and tooling costs as quickly as possible? Or should we sell to the mass market at the lowest possible price! writing down the costs over a long period, and
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British business men show little thirst for knowledge about design / Dr Arthur Earle, principal, London Business School.
leaving few loopholes to competitors ?
These are marketing and management questions. But the answers both affect and are affected by the configuration of the design - its function, efficiency, styling, costing and construction. The means and the ends are thus intimately related. And because of this, the function of design in a manufacturing company must be a primary responsibility of management and cannot be dismissed as being of secondary importance.
This argument would suggest that the management of design should occupy a significant place in general management education. But does it ? To try to find out, I carried out an inquiry which showed that the problem is only beginning to be tackled in a few management training centres. But before going on to describe the inquiry in more detail, it is necessary to look at recent developments in the training of both managers and of designers.
It is certainly relevant to the present argument that the same two decades which have seen engineering and industrial designers attempting to formalise their professional organisation and training have also seen similar changes in the organisation and training of management. Managers have perhaps advanced more rapidly towards the development of a science of management than designers have towards a science of design. Certainly students of rational methods in design find themselves leaning heavily on techniques borrowed from management science. Teachers of management are at least two years ahead of teachers of design in raising the level of instruction to that of a valid university subject. Even so, the business schools have far from completed their development. Ever since the end of the second world war, management in British industry has been accused of amateurism, timidity, inefficiency and backwardness. In 1963, these criticisms were focused by the Robbins and Franks reports, and the cost of rectifying the situation was calculated by the Normanbrook report the following year. At that time, many full-time and part-time courses of instruction in management techniques were already in existence - organised mainly by technical colleges, professional bodies and management consultants, and consisting mainly of short courses. The same year, the Confederation of British Industry, the British Institute of Management and the Foundation for Management Education raised 5 million which, with the promise of 2 million of Government money, was to be devoted, among other things, to the development of graduate business schools on the American model. This gave a great fillip to these courses, as well as stimulating much jostling among the universities for a share of the money. It so happened that these events roughly coincided with renewed activity on the design side, stimulated by the Coldstream and
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A research fellowship is needed on design decision making in management / A.L.Minkes, director, Graduate Centre for Management Studies, Birmingham.
Feilden reports on the re-organisation of art-based and engineering based design education respectively, and by the Robbins report which recommended that the colleges of advanced technology should be turned into universities.
This then is the background to the inquiry, which suggests that the time has arrived when design could be linked much more directly to the management chain. The inquiry, which was in two parts, set out first to establish the facts, and second to collect opinions based on interviews with principals and course directors at selected management/raining centres.
In the first part of the inquiry, DESIGN wrote to all the organisers of courses on management subjects who could be identified, and asked them for prospectuses. Out of several hundred prospectuses received from 45 centres, 140 courses were selected as dealing with subjects within which reference to some aspect of design might seem appropriate. These ranged from "The organisation of industry and commerce", a three year honours degree course at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh, to "Operator training (skill development method)", a one day course at P. E. Consulting Group Ltd. Surrey.
For the purposes of this survey, five aspects of design were considered to be relevant: aesthetics, ergonomics, design for function, design for marketing, and design for production. It was
A research fellowship is needed on design decision making in management A. L. Minkes, director, Graduate Centre for Management Studies, Birmingham.
assumed that a management student would not need to acquire skill in the techniques of designing, but that he would be expected to gain some understanding of the effects of at least some aspects of design on marketing and production, and of the principles of organisation of the design function. Since attitudes to this would depend a great deal on the special slanting of each course, all those examined were divided into four classes: 1 Management courses, including business administration, industrial administration and management science. 2 Marketing courses, including sales management, industrial marketing, advertising, market research and management of new product development. 3 Industrial engineering courses, including works management, personnel management, work study and ergonomics for engineers. 4 Production engineering courses, including production planning, process control, quality control, and value analysis.
Every course syllabus was then examined and a judgement made as to which, if any, aspects of design should have been referred to and which, if any, were in fact referred to. The results were depressing. Only 35 of the 140 courses appeared to refer to design at all, and of these only seven to any significant degree. In general, it was clear that design was regarded as an activity for backroom boys - important, perhaps, but separate.
A place for design in management education ?
This attitude was painfully driven home by the follow-up interviews. These formed the second part of the inquiry, and were intended to discover whether or not there were any special reasons for the low rating of design as a management interest, and whether or not any great changes were in store. On the advice of J. F. Sinclair, director of the Foundation for Management Education, and Mrs Molly Adams, of the British Institute of Management, it was decided to visit the Graduate Centre for Management Studies, Birmingham; the London Graduate School of Business Studies; the Manchester Business School; the Administrative Staff College, Henley-on Thames; and the Ashridge Management College, Berkhamsted.
What the schools had to say
Ashridge Management College was the only one visited which has actually given instruction in design as a management tool. The principal, Dr Christopher Macrae, fully acknowledges the importance of the subject, and the ColD has co-operated with the college in arranging lectures and discussions. I spoke to Dr S. K. Manstead, deputy principal, who said, "I think we must distinguish between the situation as it is and the situation as we would like it to be. As of now, design is dealt with as a significant subject in our longer marketing courses. But we regard design as a general management responsibility, not just marketing. However, it enters our general management courses mainly in the shape of value analysis, which is an extremely useful tool, but only part of the story. The problem is that the design profession has been singularly inarticulate about design policy and design management. We recognise the need for expertise in this field but it is still not very easy for us to know where to find it."
On a previous occasion, W. G. McClelland, director of the Manchester Business School, had talked to James Noel White, deputy director of the Col D. At that time, McClelland had expressed doubts about industrial design as an appropriate subject for management teaching at university level, unless and until it could be shown that there was an established corpus of knowledge and well documented case studies - a consideration, incidentally, that is currently occupying a number of minds at the Royal College of Art, which is having to turn itself into a university.
During the present inquiry I spoke on the telephone to Ken Simmonds, professor of marketing at Manchester, and he confirmed McClelland's earlier view. "The trouble is," he said, "there is a tremendous amount for our students to assimilate, and not enough time to put it across."
Management techniques
At the University of Lancaster, to which I was referred by Professor Simmonds, Professor Raymond Lawrence took almost exactly the same line. He added that in his view the propositions put forward were concerned with the marketing function. Marketing people prepare design briefs, and design people carry them out. In Birmingham, however, A. L. Minkes, director at the Graduate Centre for Management Studies, was intrigued by the idea that management techniques were being used by designers to resolve design problems, and said that he would welcome an initiative on the part of the ColD in setting up a research fellowship on design decision making in management.
At the London Business School, Dr Arthur F. Earle not only spoke of design in strategic terms, but was able to discuss product
design, house style and the design of environments with obvious knowledge and experience. I n the second year syllabus of his two year master's degree programme, which began only a few months ago, subjects such as entrepreneurship and innovation, product design and development, product formulation to meet consumer needs, tactical aspects of product and marketing management, the build-up of the product line, and decisions on branding, packaging, container and label design are listed. Perhaps his experience as managing director of Hoover Ltd had something to do with it.
Dr Earle admitted, however, that his view was not widely shared. "On the whole, British businessmen show little thirst for knowledge about design," he said. "Although I know that any designer worth his salt will treat design as an all-in problem, most people think of engineers as inside designers and industrial designers as outside designers, and no more."
J. P. Martin-Bates, principal of the Administrative Staff College, Henley-on-Thames, also had well formulated ideas on design decision making as a management function. He always strives to get the design side represented in each course, although some sessions are stronger than others in this respect. Design, along with development and research, is always the subject of supporting studies, and also receives attention in the examination of technical and economic change in marketing. But he, too, finds it difficult to achieve real depth of understanding of design as a matter of fundamental concern to the production and commercial sides.
A measure of sympathy
It can be seen that in the leading business schools, at least, there was a measure of sympathy for the view that design and designer have a role in management and policy making. What of business itself ? In its survey Attitudes in British Management, published in 1965, Political and Economic Planning quotes many examples of narrow attitudes to design (the survey regards design as a part of research and development). Among other things, the survey concludes, "There was in many firms an unsatisfactory relationship between the R & D, production and sales or marketing departments . . . ", and "It has become almost a cliche to say that much of British industry is too dominated by the production side, but the interviews confirmed that it is still, nonetheless, true."
The inescapable conclusion from both the paper study and the direct approaches is that there are still great gulfs of misunderstanding, not only between the management profession and the design profession, but also between the engineering and the industrial design branches of the design profession. Industrial designers are generally regarded as aestheticians, unversed in the needs of product marketing and business strategy. Engineering designers are generally regarded as technicians, unversed in the needs of marketing, business strategy, and human factors.
Perhaps when the British business schools recognise that the management of design is a primary rather than a secondary responsibility of management, they will proceed to do something about it. If they do so, the design side will be expected to produce the established corpus of knowledge and the well documented case studies which McClelland said would be demanded. And unless the design profession and the design schools exert themselves a good deal more than they have so far, that corpus of knowledge and technique will be found wanting. Bridges are best built from both banks of a divide.
It is difficult to acieve real depth of understanding of design / J.P.Martin-Bates, principal, Administration Staff College Henley-On-Thames.

 

 

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