Leading the Design Firm

This course introduces students to the business side of the design industry. It highlights the ways in which a design firm is a business like any other but with unique cultural, strategic, and financial characteristics. The course covers leadership and management of design firms and includes topics such as starting and leading a new design firm; marketing, promotion; management and leadership; organization and staffing; finance and economics; the life cycle of design firms including ownership transition, succession planning, and mergers and acquisitions.

The course addresses the unique leadership challenges of design firms through the combined lenses of professionals holding leadership positions in the industry and relevant academic theories, through which students gain an in-depth understanding of design firm leadership. This course is vital for Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planning, MDesS, and other students desiring to understand how design firms are started, led and managed.

The course is comprised of lectures, written assignments, and real-world cases and examples. Expert guest speakers address specific topics. This course fulfills the professional practice elective requirement for MArch and MLA students and complements other practice-related courses offered at the GSD.

Grades will be based on attendance and class participation (20%), individual written assignments (25%), the midterm paper (25%), and the final paper or project (30%). There is no required textbook for the course. Readings will be assigned from The Architect\’s Handbook of Professional Practice, 14th Edition, published by the American Institute of Architects on reserve in Loeb Library for this course. Additional articles and readings will be provided in digital format via the course website.