Becoming a design manager

I was going to post this in my Design Direction portfolio tread, but decided to break it out as I think it is an important tread on its own. I wanted to put the question out there as to when did the more veteran designers out there become a Manager of design? How many years of experience? How did you give up the hands on design work? Was it hard? How did this effect you when it came to moving on to other opportunities?

The reason why I ask this is that I am getting to that point in my career, where I am starting to manage outside designers, as well as in house, but I am finding it hard to let go of that hands on design work. I am pretty good at giving design direction and have no problems mentoring others and giving advice, but I sometimes find myself thinking that the way I want something done and taking it on myself. The biggest issue is that most of the design resources we have are outside of our organization which make this much harder. I would love to hear how others transitioned from a designer to a design manager.

I was in the right place at the right time. I had exactly 1.5 years of experience (first job) after design school when my boss resigned and the company was too cheap to recruit an experienced design manager - so they threw the job to me. A year later the competition sent a recruiter after me and the rest is history. I parlayed my good fortune into a full career as a design director. In almost every job I also remained a hands-on designer as well. I insisted during the interview process.

Some people may have earned the manager job, but others got lucky like me…

One-word, timing is always a factor! Right place, right time is a part of every good story… though 1.5 years out, that is some good a$$ timing! :wink:

package, I always find it helps if I have one or two projects that are my total babies, on these I will allow myself to go deep, and communicate that to the team, I also have a couple of skunk works things going at all times, this allows me to zoom out on the other projects… but on most projects I will always have my thing, and I alternate letting the team run free, and getting down and doing an overlay… it is a gentle balance, and the mix needs to be adjusted on every project with every team. That fact that you are thinking about it so much signals to me that you are probable pretty good at it.

Around here, it’s all the typical stuff but it’s also when you start “managing up”.
meaning, when you can predict and control Product Management’s vagaries, or the ability to train the business/engineering managers you work with.
I’d liken it to account management in consultancies where the client has their expectations clarified and adjusted during the design process so that at the end they feel like they are masterful design managers.

good description no spec.

it’s not something they teach in school…should be what the grad level is for.

I heard someone here once compare the difference between DAAP and RISD as being trained for your first job vs. being trained for your last job.

That’s funny, I’d agree with that… though I’m not sure how good it is having a bunch of 21 year olds who are trained for a job that also requires 10+ years of working experience is!