Job descriptions and industry overviews

Design manager (construction): job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:37

Design managers coordinate all of the design-related matters on construction projects, helping to keep work running smoothly and on time.

A design manager briefing a site manager

What does a design manager do? Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Design managers (also known as design coordinators or design and build managers) are specialist project managers who oversee design-related matters on construction projects. They’re employed by construction contractors (as opposed to the initial design consultants or architects) and help ensure that the multi-disciplinary teams involved in the project work together smoothly and that everything is delivered on time and within budget.

They typically start work on a project before construction begins and continue until construction is complete, with their tasks changing as the project progresses.

Typical duties include:

  • managing the design processes involved in a construction project, including ensuring that drawings are ready on time, reviewing designs and making them available to the appropriate people
  • liaising with clients on design-related matters
  • establishing and maintaining effective methods of communication between the teams involved in design work throughout the project
  • maintaining records and documents throughout the project
  • assessing, mitigating and managing risks connected with design
  • ensuring designs and design work meets health and safety legislation, sustainable building standards (such as BREEAM – the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method) and industry codes of practice
  • managing the design team
  • chairing design meetings, writing reports and giving presentations.

Design managers generally split their time between their office and construction sites; their working hours may vary according to whether they are office- or site-based.

Over time, design managers typically specialise in a type of building, development or sector.

Graduate salaries

There are some opportunities for graduate design managers, but these tend to be generalist roles in which you can build experience of design management. Salaries for these roles start at around £22,000, according to Glassdoor, a job comparison site.

However, in general, design managers tend to be experienced construction professionals who have gained specialist skills on the job and worked their way up into the role.

Typical employers of design managers

  • Construction contractors
  • House builders
  • Engineering firms.

Once you’ve gained experience, you could work as a freelance design manager, charging clients for your time on a daily basis.

Graduate design manager jobs are advertised by careers services. You’ll also find them, along with roles for more experienced design managers, on specialist recruitment sites such as

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into this field for graduates and school leavers.

Graduates need a related subject, such as architecture, construction management, construction project management, design management or architectural technology. You could either apply for a graduate design manager position or choose a general construction graduate scheme with the aim of building the experience needed to progress into this role.

School leavers can take a design and construction management apprenticeship, which involves studying towards a degree while working in a design-related role such as an architectural technologist.

Design management professionals can gain professional qualifications with relevant professional bodies. For example, you could work towards chartership with the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) or gain project management qualifications through the Association for Project Management (APM). These can be valuable for career progression, but are not often a specified requirement for senior design roles.

Key skills for design managers

Recruiters will be looking for:

  • excellent design and technical skills, including the ability to use design software
  • problem solving skills and creative thinking
  • project management skills
  • the drive to continue to learn throughout your career, including topics such as legislation and sustainability guidelines
  • attention to detail
  • negotiation skills
  • organisation and time management
  • commercial awareness
  • communication skills
  • teamworking, relationship-building and influencing skills
  • client management skills
  • leadership skills and decisiveness

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