9 Project design management as a methodology


Learning Outcomes

  • Contextualise the phases of the Design Management Method (DMM).
  • Articulate the key benefits of DMM for project managers.
  • Determine the importance of DMM as the new Parading in project management.

Companies that manage design effectively and efficiently attain better performance than those that do not. Therefore, good design does not emerge by chance or by simply investing in design but rather as the result of a managed process. (Chiva and Alegre 2009)

Design Management

Design is a potent differentiator that some organisations use to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Implementing excellent design is not a stand-alone task; rather, businesses must build a wide range of project management skills in this area. Such design capabilities are increasingly acknowledged as a source of competitive advantage; however, they are frequently neglected by businesses due to their lack of understanding of how to implement this approach.

Design management refers to the management activities, methodologies, and competencies necessary to optimise and oversee design processes. In the 1980s, the marketing ‘expert’, Philip Kotler, asserted that the significance of design to a company’s competitiveness was obvious (Kotler 1984). However, it is only in recent times that design has gained popularity within businesses’ competitive methods.

In project management, design is a comprehensive approach. Managing design for successful projects is not just about the control of a creative process; it is also about delivering outputs effectively, efficiently, and efficaciously, such as achieving project objectives and outcomes at all levels and meeting all stakeholders’ requirements. The effective management of the design process helps decrease design-related problems in the project life cycle as well as minimise the overall project risks. This method also enables profitability maximisation for the organisation by providing a platform for continuous improvement. This is captured in the project design definition statement by Murray and Thomas (2008:2) below:

Project design embodies the evaluation of possible outcomes early-on, before committing to a course of action. By rapidly exploring possibilities – through dialogue, analysis and prototyping – awareness is built and better results are achieved. And as things change (they always do, don’t they?) a good design is easily adjusted.

Successful businesses would never create a product and put it into production without the use of modelling, simulations, or prototypes. A good project design and plan is needed to justify this process.  According to Murray and Thomas (2008), project design, therefore, facilitates the project life cycle by bridging the gap between the strategic decision to execute the project and its actual implementation. It aids in responding to the issue of deciding on the most optimal and viable method for executing the project.

Therefore, why design?

We would like you to consider these 4 main reasons:

  1. As a methodology, project design recognises, assesses, and describes the enormous coordinating effort inherent in all big projects.
  2. It supports intricate interdependencies and provides a technique for rapidly recognising, assessing, and adjusting these interdependencies using visual modelling and simulation prior to time and cost impacts.
  3. An effective project design management approach can eliminate ambiguity about the project’s scope and save time and money in the long run.
  4. Companies that invest in design encourage innovation.

By establishing a clear project design framework, the management of the project life cycle in general will be facilitated by bridging the gap that often exists between the strategic decision to execute the project and its actual implementation. A clear project design framework will also aid in responding to the issue of what is the most optimal and viable method for executing the project, because it is a method embedded within all the existing approaches but also one that stands on its own.

Stages involved in project design

To be able to start you must be a CREATIVE project manager. Creativity and the ability to generate ideas/innovation are two core skills a project manager requires to design. In addition, for the organisation to properly manage design, they need to have a design management process that is both well-planned and highly efficient. Therefore, the DMM implementation for an organisation begins with the formulation of an implementation strategy, project conceptualisation and design review. These 3 stages will include the components highlighted in Table 10.

Table 10. DMM’s 3 core stages

Stage 1: Strategy Plan Stage 2: Project Conceptualisation Stage 3: Design Review
Strategy and implementation recommendations Fix requirements Project design analysis and evaluation
Evaluation of business strategy Consensus and/or negotiation of agreement Project design appraisal
Facilitating DMM processes


Project simulations Planned trade-offs
DMM criteria, requirements, and facts


Project evaluation Optimisation
DMP framework and resources


Project product outcome
Prototyping/service outcome design
Training in DMM


Understanding the project’s purpose is essential for developing efficient project designs. Additional strategies for designing project plans include the following.

Focus on the objective. Align the project objectives with project deliverables to ensure that they are met while the project is executed. Start with the desired outcome and move backwards. Using project timeline tools such as Gantt Charts and a Work Breakdown Structures, the project manager can combine project objectives with the correct actions necessary to fulfil them.

Stakeholder engagement. Communication is vital for the success of every endeavour. It is the project manager’s role to invite team members and stakeholders to participate in project design consultations. This helps align all parties and ensures that they are aware of and committed to the project’s objectives.

Review and modify. Designing a project is not a one-done method. The design documentation may require modifications and updates over time. It is normal practice to modify project plans when new information is gathered as the project progresses.

A feasibility study. As discussed in earlier modules, this is a report that describes the optimal solution in broad but realistic terms. Additional research and development (R&D) may be necessary when establishing the facts to start the design of a project.

Develop prototypes. The adoption of models and simulations such as distribution, and scheduling is recommended.


According to Scacandi (2012) the following are critical tasks to define design requirements in the project life cycle.

  1. Specify owner design specifications and project design prerequisites

In addition to the design-related information collected for the project, the project manager should collect any extra design-related information from all the relevant stakeholders. Identify any gaps in the available information and endeavour to get the missing data. This is the ideal moment to meet with the project host organisation, examine any design-related information, and determine how to proceed with gathering further data.

  1. Engage design consultants

Now is the time to recruit all the essential design project team members needed to create the functional design brief and the concept design. It is crucial that the consultant’s job scope and needed degree of input be spelt out very clearly in their contract agreement.

  1. Prepare the initial design concept

Manage and organise the design project team to create the initial design concept that responds to and documents all the stakeholder’s needs and criteria and serves as the basis for the design to be approved and moved to a planning and executing phase. The concept design needs to be complemented by concept design sketches and a complete design proposal report.

  1. Develop the design management strategy

At this point of the design process, it is necessary to create the design management strategy, which serves as a guide for how the design will be managed. It is a crucial component of the project manager’s project management strategy. Figure 37 shows a flowchart of the events that need to be undertaken to develop the project management strategy.

Figure 37. Design project management strategy, by Carmen Reaiche and Samantha Papavasiliou, licensed under CC BY (Attribution) 4.0


  1. Outline the project cost plan

The design project manager is responsible for supervising and coordinating the creation of the outline cost plan while incorporating the feedback of all relevant design consultants.

  1. Specify the risks posed by the design

During the business case phase, any design-related risks that have been discovered should be analysed and elaborated on by the whole design team. Any risks connected to the design of the safety feature should also be recognised. After that, the project manager should assess the risks posed by the design, and the steps you took to mitigate those risks should be documented in the overall risk register. This will serve as the basis for future use and ongoing management.

  1. Value proposition – Return on Investment

At this point in time, the design project manager ought to organise a session on value management. The purpose of a value management proposition is to conduct an exhaustive analysis of a project’s primary functions or performance in order to obtain the greatest possible return on investment (ROI). It gives a summary of the project’s goal as well as the recurring and one-time costs associated with it.

  1. Determine the procedure for project approvals

At this point, it is the responsibility of the design project manager to collaborate with their design team in order to establish and clarify the process of planning approval and to integrate this with the needs of the whole design process.

  1. Construct the report on the final design

Complete the functional design brief, concept drawings, and an outline design report for delivery to the project host organisation. The outline design report should include the conclusions of the outline design process. Before moving on to the next stage of design, this step allows all key stakeholders the chance to offer their comments and suggestions. After the project host organisation has given its approval, the design project manager is able to move on to the next step of the project’s life cycle, which is the scheduling design phase.

Like every project management methodology or approach, the design management methodology is one that follows the flow of the project life cycle. Project managers must start by having a conversation about the project’s objectives and intended outcomes with their team and any other key stakeholders. To get started, we recommend organising a brainstorming session during which the project manager will document the overall project plan as well as the major deliverables. Project managers have a better understanding of the criteria and standards for the project after gathering the right amount of information. If the project manager communicates with the team and asks for their input on the project’s practicability and feasibility, this will decrease the amount of time spent on planning, executing, and reviewing the project and enhance the likelihood that it will be successful.

Establish the primary goals of the project, then break each one down into smaller, more achievable pieces and activities. These need to contain all the actions and tasks that you, as the project manager, will carry out over the course of the project. It is recommended that the project manager pays close attention to anything that could stand in the way of finishing the project as soon as possible. To evaluate the factors that could have an effect on one’s level of success, it is necessary to take into account potential drawbacks, such as limitations in terms of time, money, and resources (remember the rule of the iron triangle). Maintaining communication with the relevant teams and stakeholders to find solutions to these problems before the project gets underway is also a must step while adopting DMM. Determine the factors that will regulate accomplishing the project and compile a list of criteria to determine whether or not the results, deliverables, and completed outcomes have been attained. Find out who is in charge of the approvals and the processes that need to be followed for the approvals to go through successfully and just in time. This will minimise potential delays.

In sum, the project manager is initially responsible for designing the project and this is one of their key responsibilities. At this stage, choices must be made about how to manage and steer the project administratively and ethically. In the process of developing a project plan, attention is paid to the requirements of the project’s stakeholders, the organisation, and, of course, the project itself. Following that, the next stages of the project will be supervised with the help of the overall design management strategy.

If the entirety of the development process as well as the outcome of the project are dependent on the structure of the project design, then you could give some thought to how difficult and crucial it is for the structure of the project design itself to be effective from the start. A project design may assist in removing any potential roadblocks from the process of developing the project and can also help lessen any confusion regarding the project objectives and outcomes that may exist among those participating in the project. Therefore, it is critical that you master this approach if you wish to excel as a project manager.

Just remember: Design is the initial step towards a project success.

Test your knowledge

Key Takeaways

The following elements come together to form a comprehensive project design:

  • a comprehensive explanation of the organisation or company that will be in charge of the expansion of the project and the responsibilities that come along with that
  • a comprehensive review of the project, including its history and recommendations for its future growth
  • the aims, milestones, goals, and outcomes of the project are clearly outlined.

Design project management encompasses each and every product, key deliveries, assessment and monitoring standards, as well as features of success project criteria.

Design project management is the act of handling incoming design requests, assigning work to team members, and managing the project life cycle until its conclusion.

Design management methodology demands effective project collaboration


Chiva R and Alegre J (2009) ‘Investment in design and firm performance: the mediating role of design management’, Journal of Product and Innovation Management, 4:424–440, doi:10.1111/j.1540-5885.2009.00669.x.

Kotler, P (1984) Principles of Marketing, The Prentice-Hall series in Marketing. Prentice-Hall.

Murray P and Thomas S (2008) ‘Designing complex projects’, paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2008—North America, Denver, CO, Project Management Institute, Newtown Square, PA.

Scacandi P (2012) ‘9 steps to define design requirements on your project’, WriterType, accessed 3 August 2022. https://projectmanager.com.au/9-steps-design-requirements-project/


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Management Methods for Complex Projects Copyright © 2022 by Carmen Reaiche and Samantha Papavasiliou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.