A design department manager acts as a liaison between the creative or graphic design department and the rest of a company. Many large consumer goods companies, advertising agencies and architectural firms have a large design department requiring this role. The overarching goal of a design department manager is to see that work is pushing in a smooth and timely fashion and aligns with the expectations of the rest of the company.
Education and Career Path
Most graphic designers obtain at least a BA in graphic design with a concentration in an area such as industrial design, web design or book design. A design department manager has often obtained a BA and has over five years of work experience. This position requires detailed knowledge of the company's hierarchy and manner of working. It's common to move up in the same company. A typical path before becoming design department director for a large company could include being assistant designer, junior designer, senior designer and design department manager.
A design department manager is a step below the department director but the two often work side by side on some issues. The director of the department oversees the work being done and judges its quality and feasibility. A design department manager watches how smoothly projects are coming through the department and looks more at the bigger picture than the creative elements.
A design department manager must not only be able to understand the graphic design at an intricate level, he must also see the bigger picture. When a job is awarded, the manager has a role budgeting the job, creating the workflow timeframe and understanding the competitiveness the work will face once out in the field. A manager must be able to delegate assignments and be comfortable evaluating the work ethic of staff. The position requires business savvy, people skills and organization in addition to design skills.
Work Life and Employment
Graphic design manager positions often involve a typical 9-to-5 job with many meetings and less design work than others in the department. If workflow is heavy, you may still be stepping in as needed. When looking for such a position, highlight your organizational and business skills, knowledge of the industry and your graphic design abilities. The employer needs to trust you get the overall workflow of a department and can handle slip-ups quickly and easily.
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