Over the course of every design practitioners career there are days when one comes across authors and their books that act as intellectual catalysts to spark new ways of thinking about how one approaches design. I’d like to introduce you to three such books on the subject of design management…all with one thing in common. They are co-authored (with other colleagues) by Rachel Cooper and Margaret Bruce. These are not new books, with publishing dates ranging from 1995 to 2002 but their message is still potently relevant today. I suggest that they are ideal primers to inspire the strategic designer in all of us. I also believe that they are fundamental to any business strategist trying to understand how to better incorporate design into driving business innovation and to any strategic design manager seeking to drive the design organization that will underpin it.

The first is “The Design Agenda” by Rachel Cooper and Mike Press. Published in 1995 it is one of the first books dedicated to describing and defining “design management”. What I have always appreciated about design management is its dedication to thinking holistically about how both design fits within the organization and also how customers experience its manifestation. The book explores the concept of total design and the experience associated with that and also looks at the total design management landscape from its role informing corporate strategy, then design strategy, and finally actual design management. It digs into fundamentals including thoughts on the value of design, corporate design strategies, design organizations, and design audits. It concludes with a comprehensive table that summarizes what the design management “agenda” should be in terms of actions (planning, organizing, implementing, and evaluating) and the roles people play at various levels of the organization.

The second book is entitled “Marketing and Design Management” by Margaret Bruce and Rachel Cooper. Published in 1997 it is a collection of essays exploring the relationship between design and marketing, case studies on successful partnerships, and followed by the republishing of four “seminal papers”. The latter are must-reads for all strategic designers. Peter Gorb’s “Silent Design” refers to “non-designers, such as marketing managers, who make decisions that affect design” and how “defining the role of silent designers and recognizing their impact on design” is a crucial responsibility of every design manager. The other excellent piece is “Design: a powerful but neglected strategic tool” by Philip Kotler and Alexander Rath. As the authors point out, what is interesting about the case for design as made here is that a well-known marketing expert is making it. This collection of essays is still valuable today as the relationship between design and marketing continues to evolve as we respond to the challenges to our respective disciplines being triggered by the digital age.

Last but not least is “Design in Business: Strategic Innovation Through Design” by Margaret Bruce and John Bessant. Published by the UK Design Council in 2002 the book is divided in to 4 sections. Section 1 explores design definitions and design management processes. Section 2 takes on the challenge of integrated design management with a particular lens on the relationships between design and strategy, marketing, operations, organization design, and finance. This is the heart of the book and is inspiring in its holistic and integrated view of how design drives innovation within an organization. It provides great inspiration to help designers communicate the value of design to diverse stakeholders and sets the foundation for effective collaboration. Recent discussions on the relationship of business and design thinking practices could benefit from a look at the insights presented here. The book closes by looking to the future…how might we improve the design process and how can we better look to the future to inform our strategies for design and its role in business.

Margaret Bruce is currently Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Central Lancashire and Professor Rachel Cooper is Director of the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA).


Cooper, R. & Press, M. (1995) The Design Agenda: A Guide to Successful Design Management. John Wiley & Sons

Bruce, M. & Cooper, R. (1997) Marketing and Design Management. International Thomson Business Press.

Bruce, M. & Bessant, J. (2002) Design in Business: Strategic Innovation Through Design. Design Council. Financial Times/Prentice Hall. Pearson Education.

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