Design Manager Job Description

Design managers efficiently manage graphics and design teams or departments. Creative and artistic, they apply that artistic nature in a corporate environment. Skilled and educated, design managers work full-time hours in an office. They collaborate with marketing, sales, and product engineer teams to ensure designs succeed and messages are properly delivered to customers. Design managers usually report to project managers or executive management.


Design Manager Duties and Responsibilities

Design managers typically hold the same duties and responsibilities regardless of industry or company. Successful design manager candidates can expect to perform these duties in their daily job:

Develop Design Strategies

Design managers develop and implement successful design strategies, outlining how the design team will create deliverables and implement them for the project.

Manage Design Team

Design managers typically manage a team of several designers, evaluating individual design deliverables and overall team performance. They also deliver critical feedback where needed and encourage team members throughout the duration of a project.

Collaborate with Product and Marketing Teams

Design is important to a product’s success; design managers collaborate with other teams to ensure that success. They work mostly with product development and marketing teams, as those teams are most involved with a product’s looks and presentation to customers.

Present Design Ideas

Once design strategies have been developed, design managers present them to upper management. While presenting, design managers speak to specific numbers and expected outcomes.

Evaluates Design Performance

Once a design has been finalized and implemented, design managers track and evaluate feedback. This often involves filtering through customer surveys and responses to focus groups to create an overall picture of how well the design performed.


Design Manager Skills and Qualifications

Design managers are artistic and creative, familiar with design quality and the strategies involved in creating good designs. Employers look for design managers who have master’s degrees in graphic design, visual arts, or other relevant fields. Successful candidates have at least seven years of design experience and three years of design management experience. Successful design managers should also possess the following skills:

  • Artistic innovation – design managers introduce artistic innovation into every project they manage, thinking of new ways to create unique designs that have meaningful impacts on customers
  • Conflict management – since they manage a team of multiple designers, design managers should be able to manage and resolve conflict between individual team members and between different teams
  • Negotiation skills – working with other teams to implement changes to a product’s design, design managers influence others, leading them to understand why certain design aspects matter more than others
  • Leadership – design managers are good leaders able to deliver clear feedback to their team members
  • Deadline management – design managers ensure strict team and project deadlines are met


Tools of the Trade

Design managers work with a wide variety of tools throughout their day, most often using these tools:

  • Design tools (Adobe Creative Suite, AutoCAD, Sketchup)
  • Presentation tools (PowerPoint, Keynote)
  • Web technology (HTML, CSS, UI design)
  • Microsoft Office Suite


Design Manager Education and Training

Successful design managers usually have a master’s degree in graphic design, visual arts, or other relevant fields. These degrees focus on courses such as user experience, design principles, and design tools training.


Design Manager Salary and Outlook

Because of their extensive experience, design managers earn a median annual salary of $79,000. According to Payscale, top earners in the design management field make upwards of $130,000 per year, while low earners make around $50,000 per year. Design managers may also receive incentive bonuses based on their team’s performance, further increasing their salary. They also receive comprehensive benefits packages from their employers, typically including health insurance and vacation and sick time.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, design manager jobs are expected to grow steadily at four percent over the next 10 years. However, design manager roles in technology and computer industries are expected to grow at an intense rate of 20 percent.


Helpful Resources

If you think a design manager role is right for you, read through some of the following resources to learn more:

Design Management Institute – The DMI is a world-renowned organization that connects design to business. It’s focused on changing the world through design and connects industry leaders to each other across the globe. Its website includes videos, webcasts, and publications.

Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff they don’t teach you in high school, but should – This book is filled with humor and real-world anecdotes to help you learn the unwritten rules of the design world. This is a practical guide that is sure to impress.

How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World – The book’s powerful, albeit long, title is a good indication of what’s in the book. After reading this book, you’ll have more inspiration for your design strategies. Written by one of this century’s most innovative and influential artists, this book is a must-read for design professionals.


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