How can I use a Business Degree in the field of Design?

How can I use a business degree in the field of design?

Simply put, I love everything architecture, art, and design (with specific attention to branding and industrial design). I have a business degree and I want to move into the field of design without getting a bachelors/masters of design (although this is not completely off the table).
Does anyone have any practical experience/knowledge in this matter? What kind of positions exist? What are the normal entry requirements, or the standard paths to success? Is it even possible to move into the design world with a business degree?

If so, I would very much appreciate your comments, or even links to blogs/websites that may facilitate my career progress going forward.

Thanks! :smiley:

Design is only a small component of the new product development process. Business obviously also has a role in the new product development process.

  1. Business determines what product or product catagory the business should pursue. Apple making ipods and selling music through itunes was a business decision.

  2. Upstream marketing is tasked with determining the problems the customer is facing. They feed that information to design to determine solutions for those problems.

  3. Upstream marketing also takes the solutions and presents them to customer for evaluation and reports that input back to design. That process goes round and round until there is an acceptable product or the project is killed.

  4. Upstream marketing determines overall product strategy and how the new product should be positioned in the market. This will dictate to downstream marketing the implementation of their marketing materials.

But if you want to design, learn to design. It is not the same as business.

Without getting a degree [or not being a natural Leonardo daVinci] you’d realistically stand no chance of getting a true industrial design job - but there is a growing need for new business development within consultancies and most are picking up dedicated business managers to handle that task. It’s not designing, but it can be a position that works very close with and can complement the goals of a firm’s ID function.

OR, if you take the plunge and dedicate the next 3 years to a solid, well rounded ID program your business degree will be of great value both while you’re earning the ID degree and after.

Also, a lot of larger consulting groups will have a business strategy component they offer their clients in addition to design. Places like frog and IDEO for example. These individuals work alongside designers in the early discovery phase of a project to help define the product.

Plus 1 to Michael’s response. I welcome MBA’s or business folks into my team as well as encourage my consultants to hire them. You have to remember that we are designers and as we can think in multiple directions, we typically are strong in one and that is the creative side. I love having a creative business member that can help us think out the viability side the same as partnering with engineering to think out the feasibility.

I think if you start to look into design consultancies you will notice that there is quite a bit of opportunity in business strategy. Yo mentioned frog and IDEO, but also look into Smart, Continuum, insight, Brandimage, CBX, and Sterling Brand, just to name a few. You want to look into firms that do mostly brand strategy or consumer strategy.

Good luck


Or you can become a product manager at a company where you are responsible for a line of products. You would likely be expanding and evolving the line by developing new products. Being the “owner” of product you would have more say on product design than the actual designers, and I don’t mean the detailed look of it (unless you’re a micromanaging egomaniac) but the broader strategy of the product. Where it fits in, what it does, how it’s marketed and sold etc.
There are of course other tasks like educating the sales people and other stuff, but you’re still a key player in the product development and design.

Search for the keywords Strategic Design or Strategic Product Design:

There are plenty of situations in the design field where a business background is useful. But if you are just starting out then strategy and planning can be tough to get jobs in. Try Account Management as a profession (in a design firm, advertising agency or even PR agency) this will give you a grounding in the agency world and get you into creative businesses. From there you can use the business degree to provide more and more strategic consultancy to your clients.

My firm could definitely use a business minded person w a passion for design both ID and branding. We are hiring for this job description right now.

This is definitely anther option. PLMs (Product Line Managers) help formalize product definition and the business case. The best PLMs have a healthy understanding and respect for design and are fantastic collaborators… the worst are frustrated designers. Be sure that if you want to be a designer, you go into design. If you appreciate design, and want to be involved, but not design, this might be a good path.