DESMA Forum 2014

On September 5th, still riding the wake of an inspiring DMI’s ADMC conference, we hosted the inaugural DESMA Forum. Held at Imperial College London, the DESMA Forum brought together a small crowd of academic and professional practitioners to have an open conversation about the future of design (+) management. The day-long event served as an opportunity to work with leading people working in the area of design management to explore DESMA’s ambitions to develop a new vision for the field — along the way challenging the way we describe, understand, practice, and research design management.

Split into two parts, the Forum kicked off in the morning in the stately 170 Queen’s Gate building, where four leading experts — Ezio Manzini, James Moultrie, Jeanne Liedtka, and Neal Stone — provided their perspectives on the state of design management. From Ezio’s suggestion that as we emerge out of the machine age, designers will take on the role of building a design culture, to James Moultrie’s overview of the key topics being presented at academic design management conferences, the speakers painted a picture of design management now and where it might head in the future. Following the presentations, Royal College of Art president Nick Leon, facilitated a productive and insightful conversation among the keynote presenters about the current and future state of design (+) management. Before long the audience jumped in with some challenging questions, raising issues related to the lifecycle of concepts such as Design Thinking, as well the practical challenges of implementing design management theories in practice.


In the afternoon, Bettina von Stamm helped segue from the high-level conversation of the morning, to the more concrete focus of the afternoon. After taking us on a journey through her career based on finding the commonalities between design and management, Bettina concluded that the the field of design management is still being made. On that note, the audience broke out into three rooms where the DESMA Fellows led more targeted activities around common themes coming up in their research projects.


Each room took a different focus, respectively exploring themes around collaboration, problem framing, and challenges of supporting the tacit dimensions of value in the meeting of design and business. After the short, but rousing session, the Forum reconvened for a plenum share-out of the learnings from the day. Some of the key takeaways included: a call for the DESMA Fellows add clarity and focus to their research presentations, as well as a desire for DESMA to continue exploring alternative formats for disseminating research and engaging a broader audience in working through the issues of design (+)

As the largest public event put on by the DESMA Network thus far, the 2014 DESMA Forum offered a critical platform for investigating the present and future possibilities for design (+) management. Naturally, the discussions during the event raised a variety of questions for the DESMA Network going forward — some of which revolve around the very language we use to describe design management. After the Forum, it seems the DESMA Network will seriously need to discuss whether or not it is useful to make the distinction between design and management. We are moving into a new era for the for the field of design (+) management, and the DESMA Network plans to play an key role in shaping the
language and practices surrounding its research and practice.

by Andrew

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