Having been the first woman to obtain a doctorate in design and having dedicated herself to design research for over twenty years (Pemberton-Billing, Cooper, & North Wootton, 2003), Rachel Cooper identifies design as “the process of seeking to optimize consumer satisfaction and company profitability through the creative use of major design elements (performance, quality, durability, appearance, and cost) in connection with products, environments, information, and corporate identity” (Cooper & Press, 1995). She claims, therefore, that design, by meeting the needs of consumers with the company’s objectives, can only be approached as an interdisciplinary activity of some complexity. Such complexity, suggests, will require the design process to be managed effectively and, if applied to the strategic management of the company, may even mean an innovation process with a long time horizon.
Feeling that design was undervalued and untapped in business (Cooper & Press, 2009), Cooper finds in design management the answer to this problem, defining it as “the application of the process of management to the processes of innovation and design” (Cooper & Press, 1995) that will allow an approximation of the universe of management and the universe of design. Resuming the perception that differentiates divergent thinking, imaginative and intuitive — embedded in designers — and convergent thinking, rational and justified — embedded in managers — and applying it to a company’s structure strongly suggests that different upbringings, attitudes and thinking styles can cause problems in communication.
As such, Cooper, particularly attentive on teaching design management, supports Peter Gorb in the recognition, by managers, of the contribution of the creative process that encompasses design, and defends Stephen Bayley when he states that “design covers those creative aspects of business which conventional education (and therefore conventional managers) tends to ignore” (Cooper & Press, 1995).
Acknowledging that design management is a “discipline in continual motion, changing, responding and adapting to the ever-increasing dynamics of social and business transformation” (Cooper in Hands, 2009), the director of the Research Centre for Art & Design as well as the Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre at the University of Salford (Salford, U.K.), highlights its value as a force for change, which has been increasingly far beyond the realm of industry and commerce. In fact, these days, any relationship with organizations is questionable, so intense has been the enhancement of innovation, becoming almost mandatory a radical reassessment of the way we consume and interact with everyday products and services and consequently , exploring new forms of commitment, capable of supporting individuals increasingly individualistic. Design and its proper management might be the answer, since “not only supports innovation within the service sector but also within the extended supply chain, driving innovative activity through the transference of knowledge and technologies from one sector to another” (Cooper in Hands, 2009). The new technologies of information and communication, constantly updating, as well as new design teams that share knowledge being integrated technology, geographically and culturally, make the competitive objective attributed to innovation increasingly relevant.
The book by Rachel Cooper and Mike Press, The design agenda, outlines the various areas of interaction of design within organizations, admitting that under the heralds of a matrix of management, these may be structured in terms of planning, organisation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation (Cooper & Press, 1995). Projecting the different footprints suitable for top managers, middle managers and low managers, Cooper and Press attach to the planning level design considerations such as strategy, policy, programs and procedures expected of an organisation. In terms of the organization level, design will relate to the care given to people, structures, culture and the environment of the organization, paying attention to investment and finance, and enhancing training and learning. Regarding the level of implementation and monitoring of design, and as its name suggests, communication and documentation becomes relevant before the existence of programs and projects, which regularly monitored, allow a proper evaluation (this entire process is shown diagrammatically in the book, on page 273).
The future of design management as a discipline that ensures the “balance between the needs of the consumer, the visions of design and organizational values is crucial to the longevity of any company” (Cooper & Press, 2009) is a recurring theme and of significant importance in the literature of Cooper. And this because both the London Business School (London, U.K.), as well as the Westminster University (London, U.K.) or even the Oxford University (Oxford, U.K.), have silently been withdrawing the teaching of design management of their programs (Cooper & Junginger , 2011). Cooper wonders about what will prevent design management from building a sustainable legacy that thrives both in business schools and in design schools and survive beyond the initial funding, concluding that “design management, as it is defined in some institutions, does not compose a body of knowledge or set of critical aspirations that make it possible” (Cooper & Press, 2009).