WHEN DESIGN MEETS MANAGEMENT

04 December 2008
In this interview from the Hong Kong Designers Association's publication Xpress, Chloe Tang interviews design management consultant Edith Lee on the importance of good design management for the success of a design firm and for the promotion of design.
Chloe Tang

In this interview from the Hong Kong Designers Association's publication Xpress, Chloe Tang interviews design management consultant Edith Lee on the importance of good design management for the success of a design firm and for the promotion of design.



A conversation with design management consultant, Edith Lee

Two years ago I met Edith Lee by chance through work. What first impressed me was that Edith studied Design Management. I immedi- ately felt interested and thought, "what is Design Management? Is it a left-brain and right- brain competition? Where can people study this discipline? Why pursue this study? How to use logical thinking to lead emotional creation? How is it helpful to designers? Will it hamper the creative process?" With the opportunity to cover this topic for Xpress, Edith answered all my questions. In Hong Kong, while our design industry is well-developed compared to other Asian countries, design management is still at a starting stage, still shaping itself.

Above: Edith Lee

CT: Would you please introduce yourself? What do you do?
EL: I was originally trained in graphic design, worked as a designer in the advertising industry, then worked with a photographer as a producer. I started running Leisurelee after I finished my studies in the UK. Currently, I am a brand consultant at Marc & Chantal Design.


Above: Leisurelee's studio

What does "Design Management" mean?
Design Management is not a model that can be projected, not applied with linear functions or in any specific way that leads to success. Although there have been many organisations, enterprises and academics who have tried to define and understand what Design Management is, there is no specific definition of this term, and in fact, there should not be.

The Design management process is accomplished by people with different authority and training, who work in different fields of enterprises in different sizes, cultures and industries and they have very different target groups and markets to serve. It is a varied process and there are different opinions about it. In simple terms, Design Management is about managing the design process. Served as a common language between designer (or executive) and the client (or executive) for a design project - no matter how big or how small the design project is - design management is a tool, as well as a platform. It links between technology, design, management and marketing for internal and external interfaces of the enterprise.


Above: www.leisurelee.com.hk

What is the importance of Design Management?
It is the external focus of design management that will have the greatest impact on our industry. This external focus - the promotion of design and the understanding of its worth to business, industry and culture - can affect the relevance with which the business and corporate community views our profession.

While the internal focus of design management is for designers, Design Management helps to educate and encourage designers to become professional and business-like in running their design practices.

How and why did you start to study "Design Management"?
After graduating from HK Technical College with a Higher Diploma in Graphic Design, I started a career in the design industry as a Graphic designer, where I developed an interest in brand building. Then I pursued my interest by embarking on a 'Design Management' course at The Surrey Institute of Art & Design*, University College in the UK and became a member of Design Management Institute (DMI)** after graduation.

During the time working as a designer, I realised that creative would not be able to reach its full potential by quality alone, and that with the addition of specialised design management, a design project could materialise with a better and more successful outcome, that's why I started studying Design Management. I am still learning this subject with my daily work.

* SIAD has recently formed with Kent Institute of Art & Design becomes University College for the Creative Arts."
** DMI is an international association based in Boston. Founded in 1975 at the Massachusetts College of Art, the DMI envisions a future in which design is managed in the best possible way and all industries and organisations value design as a crucial business tool.


Above: Promotion trailer / Project: "Hong Kong Design Galleria" at Ambiente Frankfurt 2006 / Client: Hong Kong Trade Development Council

What are the strengths and stresses of Hong Kong's designer/industry?
I think the problem for some Hong Kong designers is lack of confidence in their skills and designers who truly believe in themselves but don't know about management. For the design industry this is just the opposite. I think they are missing the external force, as I mentioned above - while the enterprises understand a designer's worth to business, industry and culture, they rarely understand the real tension between design and businesses.


Above: Column decoration and construction / Creative: "merry-go-round" / Client: HKFEW WONG CHO BAU School

Is Design Management applicable in Hong Kong?
Of course, Design management is a growing industry and is of paramount importance to the continuing professionalism of designers and the whole design industry.

And what did you do for Hong Kong designers? (for example when you rented the Foo Tak Building or for the artists?)
I was responsible for increasing the awareness among designers about the importance of design management to their business. I was trying to promote their works to the public and themselves to commercials, helping them in understanding what to do with building a brand.


Above: Packaging design / Project: "Hong Kong Design Galleria" at Ambiente Frankfurt 2006 / Client: Hong Kong Trade Development Council

Did you find any chemical reaction when Design crosses over with Management?
It is really depends on the people, both the designer and the one who managing the whole thing.

Umm...I had this idea when I was running Leisurelee... I was thinking about a workshop where the implications of managment and design were explored, and addressed the tension that often divides people into two factions, whether we name them "business" and "creative", or "left-brains" and "right-brains."... May be, by then, we could find some interesting chemistry between "right-brains (design)" "left-brains (management)" crossover. And sometimes, design can be logical and management can be creative.

Has any crossover chemistry taken place in your past projects?
Yes, once I tried to work with an animator for a promotion trailer. To begin, I briefly told him what the project was about, and then I created a creative brief, which contain no detailed project aims and allowed him to focus more on the creative side of the project. At the same time, I worked on the video filming, video and audio editing, as well. When he saw the final work, the animator was amased by the result, he thought it was fun and we were both satisfied with the outcome.


Above: Promotion trailer / Project: "Hong Kong Design Galleria" at Ambiente Frankfurt 2006 / Client: Hong Kong Trade Development Council

If you have chance to crossover with others, what or who do you want to collaborate with?
Experienced designers, since I think designers, who believe in design management and collaboration, are respectful. They not only enjoy the process but also seek results and are target oriented, which is most important.



This article was originally published in Xpress, a publication of the Hong Kong Designers Association, and has been republished with permission.

Photographs provided by Edith Lee.


About Edith Lee
Edith Lee founded Leisurelee in 2002. Prior to this, Edith worked in graphic design, photography and art direction for a variety of advertising agencies and local creative studios. Leisurelee is a Hong Kong based company, focused on bridging the gap between design and business through strategic management.
www.leisurelee.com.hk