Design management education: the intersection between design and business



Media & Communications Design


  • multi-disciplinary education, value of design, business skills, collaboration, biographical

Students from various disciplines have been exposed to design thinking and praxis over the last decade at the University of Pretoria. Students from publishing, journalism, marketing, management, communication, multimedia (engineering) and a variety of other disciplines enrolled for design modules at under- and postgraduate levels. Learning is extended to include collaborative projects between design students and students from other disciplines.

This paper contextualises interdisciplinary education that is aimed at the prospective design manager or design client within the framework of design theory and application. The growing debate on the nature of design knowledge on the one hand, and the development of design management as a new and discrete discipline on the other, serves as a backdrop.

The design client plays an integral role in the design process. However, many enterprises in South Africa allow managers with limited design knowledge and understanding to make design decisions.

Purchasing design is often regarded as merely a procurement activity, and design is purchased on tender at the lowest price with little regard for process or consequence.

Case studies presented in Design Management Review and other literature confirm the economic success and impact that result when design decisions are made by managers with an understanding of the role and value of design. However, very little opportunity for the training of design managers in South Africa exists, and this presents a challenge for design educators in a country where entrepreneurial success is often regarded as the only way to achieve sufficient economic growth.

Design management is not yet offered as a qualification at the University of Pretoria, but various service modules offering design management content are becoming increasingly popular amongst students from other disciplines. Such interdisciplinary education presents different and new challenges in curriculum development and teaching methods, and this paper concludes with personal observations and examples of student participation

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