Teaching Talia

Art and Design Management in Cross-Disciplinary Contexts

Posted on: April 19, 2010

By associate Professor Emma Robertson


How can art and design professionals consider and define the uses of management, and what role could applying this knowledge have to play in improving our work practices and lives? To answer this question, we can usefully consider:

The recent history of management and its relationship to cross-disciplinary art and design;

A range of insights and perspectives from individuals who have researched this area; and

The use of profiles and case studies as a research tool, which explore the role of self and process management in improving outcomes, when applied as techniques and methods in cross-disciplinary art and design.


To establish a contextual framework, we should first consider a clarification and definition of the terms we use to describe our understanding of relevant management techniques and methods:

management / n. 1. the act or manner of managing; handling, direction, or control.1

primary functions of management:


A discussion of management can be approached from both an individual and a group perspective

individual approach self-management and the group approach process management.

Self-management relates to the strategies, techniques and methods individuals can apply to direct their activities more effectively towards achieving objectives. It is also sometimes referred to as executive processes (in other words the processes of execution). Self-management can include things such as planning, task tracking, scheduling, goal setting, self-intervention, self-development and self-evaluation, in addition to efficient working methods.

Process management helps groups of people to visualise, define, measure, control, report and to ultimately improve processes, often from the position of increased profitability and efficiency. Process management should not be confused with project and program management, which mainly deal with managing a specific task with a beginning, middle and an end.

The distinction between self and process management can be applied as a framework to both art and design practice

From a historical perspective, design management can be considered as a distinct research discipline. Why then are art and design separated in this way?

“…Design management research examines how design can be managed in the context of new product development, branding, environmental design and economic competitiveness.”2

Artistic practice tends to be more concerned with aspects of self-management than the economic competitiveness which can sometimes drive collective group process management.

As with many things, as we start to define and categorise terms, overlaps emerge and some distinctions blur.

When we offer definitions of terms we need to carefully question our assumptions.


another way of establishing a context is to look briefly at an overview of what has gone before, in order to better understand management now, and to help us to imagine what it might also become in the future.


The early Egyptians are thought to have had defined methods of process and project management in order to construct the ancient wonder

s of the pyramids

Luke and I at the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt

Given the breadth and diversity of the many ways that the history of management could be discussed here, we need to ask ourselves what would be useful to select and consider?

Some techniques which could be considered in a cross-disciplinary way are:

systems thinking;
the tipping point; and
the experience curve

What would be the most effective (not efficient) technique to apply to the long-term future of our creative practice?

Time Management


Time management techniques: four-quadrant model designed by Stephen Covey in his 1989 book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Make the things and people you love a priority
It is a method of avoiding paradigm blindness, which can be described as a “I do it this way because that is the way I have always done it” way of thinking.
An analysis of the best practice of others can allow us to measure and evaluate ourselves, and to thereby improve aspects of our own cross-disciplinary strategic management through changing our ideas, tools and applied methods.
Personal profiles of self-management and case studies can both be analysed using a “three r’s triad” structure of refer, reflect, and reconstruct.

If we take a personal profile from an artist-designer and refer to what they say about their strengths and weaknesses, we can reflect on what they have in common with our own practices, (and we can also reflect on the ways in which they are different to us). Then we can reconstruct a new scenario, by putting ourselves into that “mix” and considering what different outcomes we might get by trying a technique and process of management we may have been previously unfamiliar with.

Senge points to the importance of five converging disciplines that mark out and distinguish learning organisations:

1. Personal mastery
2. Mental models
3. Building shared vision
4. Team learning
5. Systems thinking

“If any one idea about leadership has inspired organisations for thousands of years, it is the capacity to hold a shared picture of the future we seek to create.”
Peter Senge, 1990

Case studies are effective ways of doing cross-disciplinary research, and there are at least seven different types, which include: program effects; prospective; critical instance; exploratory; embedded; cumulative and narrative case studies.


How can we now better manage our cross-disciplinary futures?

Learning more about, and applying, a range of management techniques and methods, in conjunction with creative thinking processes, can transform our productive abilities as cross-disciplinary artists and designers.


1. Read the case studies in the 3 appendixes, and select an example that you find particularly interesting, and that exemplifies the concepts discussed in the lecture.

To Be Written

2. Discuss how effectively the case study uses either the refer>reflect>reconstruct or problem>response>result reflective methods.

To Be Written

3. Could the implementation of similar methods of management help you be more efficient in your creative practices? List reasons or several approaches that you will apply to your current creative project when you move into the next phase of development.

To Be Written

2 Professor Rachel Cooper and Professor Mike Press, About Academic Design Research, Pages 1 and 2, Design Council


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Just finished my Graduate Certificate in Cross Disciplinary Art and Design with UNSW.




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