Principal of Alto Design Management in London - has a first degree in Mechanical Engineering from Manchester University and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Manchester Business School.
He was the first business graduate to enter the design field full time (in 1971) after a spell of management consultancy at Unilever, and has been a practitioner since then. His professional experience spans the design of stationery through to large-scale shopping centre developments. Clients have been drawn from North and South America, Europe as well as the United Kingdom. These have included: British Airways, The British Council, the British Standards Institution, Café Soluvel Brasilia (the largest coffee manufacturer in Brazil), IDEO Product Development, the International Social Security Association (Geneva), The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, and Tesco Stores.
In 1976, he initiated a formal programme of research into the management of design that provided a lead in promoting the common ground between business executives and designers. In its 1984 report 'Managing Design' - sponsored jointly by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Design Council in the United Kingdom - the Council for National Academic Awards concluded an international survey of work in the field by stating 'Probably the most comprehensive and widely researched views on design management are those of Topalian ... '. Institutions surveyed for that report included London Business School and the Royal College of Art, London.
This research has led to several ‘firsts’, among them the analysis of design leadership and board-level responsibility for design, the description of what constitutes a corporate approach to managing design, the teaching of designers and managers together in the classroom, and the development of a series of detailed corporate design management case studies relating to such well-known organizations as Allied Dunbar Assurance, British Airways, British Ever Ready, London Regional Transport, Jaguar Cars and W H Smith. Alan has lectured and run workshops on this work at business schools and design colleges in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland and Egypt.
From 1989 to 1991, Alan was Visiting Professor of Design Management at Middlesex University Business School during which time he introduced pioneering modules into MBA programmes (mandatory on full-time, part-time and tailored) as well as law and hospitality management courses offered by the School.