Abstract Background Design is widely recognized as a strategic tool for business success. Not only large corporations but also small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) realize the importance of design. Both in academia and corporate world, attention on the design management of SMEs is growing. Studies on the design management of SMEs mainly focus on case studies and suggest ideal models for adopting design into business. However, in order for general SMEs to adopt design management into business, practical knowledge of design management activities is needed. This research aims to establish knowledge on selecting design management activities according to the various management characteristics of SMEs.
Methods First, influential management factors for design were found by conducting a contents analysis on journal articles related to business and design. Second, design management activities were identified by conducting a literature review of six design assessment tools. Third, a survey was conducted on 35 Korean manufacturing SMEs recognized as companies with good design management. The effect of each management factor on design management activities was investigated by a wide range of literature search, questionnaire survey and other relevant methods including cluster analysis, T-test, ANOVA test and regression analysis.
Results As a result, 23 design management activities and 12 influential management factors were identified. By cluster analysis, 2 types of design management styles of SMEs were identified. By regression analysis, the influential management factors for each design management activity were identified. As a result, a checklist was developed for adopting design management activity into SMEs according to the management characteristics.
Conclusions According to the management characteristics of each company, design management activities were utilized differently. The companies successful in design management were basically good at design concept and design implementation activities. Companies targeting on stable, domestic market that had already established their own way of business concentrated on the design practice-related activities. On the other hand, companies targeting the overseas, unstable market that were trying to survive with their technology competencies, also tried to focus on design practice activities, as well as design planning, design project generating, and design project-managing activities. A checklist for selecting design management activities was developed. This study has significance for adopting action-level design management into SMEs, according to each company’s management characteristics.