Recognizing Paradoxical Identities of Design Managers

Ulla Johansson, Jill Woodilla


There is a need for designers with knowledge in business as well as business people with knowledge in design. Master-level education programs for this “in between” area are growing all over the world. We argue that the knowledge and identity of being “in between” is essential but also problematic. There is a danger that, similar to relations between men and (wo)men, the business way of thinking becomes the common ground for (design) management, and the designerly characteristics become decoration, rather than another ground.  In order not to suppress the one or the other, we argue for a paradoxical identity of being both the same and different simultaneously. This paradoxical identity of both acknowledging differences and at the same time looking away from them is theoretically anchored in the postmodern project – yet earlier studies by one of the authors shows that it seems easier to embrace in practice than in (modernist) theory. Here we present a theoretical frame of reference and some empirical evidence from students in a Masters program in “Business & Design” at the University of Gothenburg. We will also present an ongoing empirical study.



Design management; Identity

Full Text: