Design Department Manager: Job Description and Duties

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a design department manager. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about salary and job duties to see if this is a potential career for you.

A design department manager oversees various creative and design projects for an organization. They collaborate with other members of a design team, ensure projects are cost-effective, and maintain an up-to-date understanding of their target market. These professionals often work in advertising, marketing, graphic design, and public relations.

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Essential Information

A variety of creative fields use design department managers. Some of these organizations include graphic design and advertising agencies, public relations, and interior design firms and marketing companies. Most design department managers have a background in graphic design or fine arts. An associate's degree program or a Bachelor of Fine Arts program will allow a designer to obtain entry-level work in a design field. Design department managers typically have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, in addition to significant work experience in a relevant field.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for art directors)*
Median Salary (2016) $76,026 (for design managers)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Job Description and Duties

Although many organizations have design managers, the core competencies of design department managers remain consistent. The design department manager should be fluent in the most relevant design software. The manager needs to understand the abilities of the creative staff and must be able to provide advice if technological issues arise. This person must be both creative and organized.

Once a project is awarded, a design department manager works with the design director and account director to determine how to best allocate the budget and project hours so that the project is profitable. The department manager is also responsible for selecting the appropriate designers for the work. Companies often have multiple design projects at a time. As a result, the design department manager must be capable of scheduling people's time and also able to juggle multiple projects at once.

The design department manager is integral to providing clear communication to a variety of people within the organization. The design department manager must be able to synthesize feedback and relay it appropriately. The design department manager is involved with developing strategic organizational policies. Once the management has established new policies, the design department manager is required to relay this to the design staff. The manager also works with design directors and other staff to review client feedback and provide suggestions on how to best relay this information to the design team.

In addition to understanding design management and workflow, the design manager must have a solid understanding of the competitive marketplace. This can be done through studying online reviews and consumer research or via surveys and market research. With this knowledge, the design manager can review projects to ensure they are aligned with the market, but also appropriately differentiated.

The design department manager has many responsibilities. The manager oversees creative staff, communicates information, helps ensure projects are profitable, and is constantly learning about design software and marketplace trends.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to, most design managers earned a median of $76,026 as of January 2016. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report data specific to design department managers, it did note that art directors were expected to see 2% growth in employment opportunities from 2014-2024, which is slower than average.

Design department managers need to have a solid grasp of design software and provide support to the design team whenever necessary. A combination of a bachelor's degree in fine arts and years of working experience in the field are typical requirements for this management position.

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