I, too, am looking into switching over to more of the managerial side of the business. Not necessarily a director or principle of design (shoot, you basically need 15 years of experience and a masters for that). I’m just thinking of long-term. I figure that the young designers will be coming up from behind me and will be masters at computer-modeling and more in-tune with current trends. I’ve only been out of school for 4 years, so I still have time to be a designer. I’m doing what I can to learn about management and other parts of business in general.
And here’s why:
First off, many more opportunities out there for business management and the pay is way, way better. Ideally, I would like to slide into product development and management.
I strongly encourage experienced designers with the right soft skills to pursue in design management, or product management. Those I’ve come across, though many are strangely reticent to admit their professional background, have been tremendous successes, both in terms of their personal careers and in the real added value they brought their employers.
What’s more, visionary companies (for which you’d like to work) actually have a liking for promoting to management individuals skilled in less traditional fields than is typically the case (read MBAs). An industrial designer as manager can bring a unique “hands-on” approach, a better understanding of the end user environment, and much-needed creativity to the business decision-making process.
If you have several years of project management and business experience and can permanently trade your CAD screen for more abstract strategic creative thinking, you should make a run of it.
Financially, it goes without saying it’s a wise move and for many also the only chance out of a nuts-and-bolts dead-end “pure” design job. You won’t find too many designers, or engineers, still practising their first love for a living into their 40s. There are reasons for that.
Design management is a surefire way to imbue a design sensibility and understanding in any firm’s business culture and finally do much more for this beleaguered profession of ours that can be done by whining from below.