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Characteristics of Design Leaders

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Characteristics of Design Leaders: Ability to Communicate Design to Non-designers in NPD



Koogin HAN and Busayawan LAM


This study examines the key characteristics of design leaders in the context the
of new product development process (NPD), especially during the Fuzzy Front
End (FFE) or the early stage of the process. It focuses on how design leaders
communicate design to non-designers. Increasingly, design has been
acknowledged as a critical factor for NPD success. However, it is often observed
that designers have difficulty in communicating design to non-designers.
Previous researches and anecdotal evidence since the 1970s indicate that
design leaders are effective design communicators. However, the definition and
key characteristics of design leaders remain unclear. According to the
comparative studies conducted with real-life NPD projects with designers, and
in-depth interviews with design leaders in the UK, there are distinct differences
between designers and design leaders in terms of attitudes toward nondesigners,
motivation, and communicating style. This study highlights key
characteristics of design leaders, namely sufficient experience of the entire NPD
process, a good understanding of design competency, motivation as having
interest in people and all key stakeholders of NPD projects, and a reflective and
flexible attitude with good active listening skills. The identification of these
characteristics could help young designers who wish to become design leaders
or to improve design communication and relationships with non-designers.


PUBLISHED: Proceedings from the The 19th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference, 2014


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