Add to this the stereotype that the design industry has the tendency to attract persons that prefer a freelance work environment that does not favor micro-management. This unique trait of the industry is what proves attractive for persons interested in designer jobs and especially management level positions. However, ultimately design and creative resource firms are in business and must have a structure that drives the institution towards its profit objectives.
You have to take a look at design jobs listings as your first step to getting into a management position in a design firm. Note that when talking about design jobs, reference is not just to design jobs graphic in nature. When referring to these types of jobs, graphic is just one form. The management jobs vary from design managers, studio managers, producers, production managers and project managers. The responsibilities of each vary but it is difficult to find a design firm where these jobs will not overlap. Hardly will there be one role that is walled from the rest. The involvement in the design process is also different with some management roles more inclined towards management of clients and accounts while others are more hands on and make decisions on the design direction of the firm.
To be better positioned for a management placing when applying for designer jobs, education is a factor. Academic qualifications in design, creative management or a related discipline are a key. Membership of a professional organization of designers would be a plus. Finally, there is the experience requirement. For management positions, experience is often virtually non-negotiable. You must have proven people management skills, leadership, great communication ability and finally, especially where the role will be customer facing, sales and marketing expertise.
If your interest is in being a design manager, note that this is often one of the more client facing management roles. The design manager will interact with clients, discuss and advise on specifics and have a say in the design firm's longer term strategic plans. A studio manager on the hand is more involved on the inner workings of the studio including task prioritization, studio staff management and the procurement of goods and services required in the studio. The role is technical and operational. The studio manager is expected to provide some guidance so experience in the actual design process is a plus. There are times where the studio manager role explicitly doubles up as the production manager.
The size of the design management industry has now spawned project manager roles. If you were to take up this type of role, it would help if you possess knowledge in general project management methodology such as PRINCE2, PMBOK or other professional certification in project management. At times, again for larger businesses, a producer position may be created to provide greater input in the design process. Finally, as you go through the design jobs and are struggling to make up your mind, remember that you need to do an independent background check of the institution you are applying for and a position in to ensure that the organization is stable and offers you growth prospects career-wise and of course compensation-wise.