Designers in Business

Business is complicated. But getting a better handle on this often confusing world could give designers extra competitive advantage, and more influence where it matters.
Today I've launched a new project. It's called Designers in Business, and it's aimed at designers of all specialisms - UX, UI, Content, Digital Product Design - who want to gain confidence in their understanding of the world of business.

The project is starting with a newsletter, curating articles from across the web. I'll be sharing useful content for fellow designers covering topics such as:

  • Business terms, simply explained
  • Common business models & strategies
  • Business ethics and social responsibility
  • Business education options for designers
  • Opinion on the impact of design in business

Soon after the first email hits inboxes in July 2020, I'll be kicking off a series of interviews with smart business folk.

This original content will help us learn from business experts who want to help designers better understand their world. We'll also discuss how designers can have more impact and influence in the world of business, and the practical steps to get us there.

So, what's the motivation behind Designers in Business?

A personal blind spot

Lockdown has given me time to reflect on the areas I'd like to grow as a designer. One area is my understanding of business.

I've always taken a keen interest in the business aspect of the clients I work with, endeavouring to make my work relatable to their goals. I've developed design strategies which try to balance user needs and business ones as best as possible.

Collaborations with non-designers and business-focused colleagues have been some of the most interesting and productive of my career.

But I've always felt an imbalance in my understanding of business compared to design. As the years go by, I increasingly feel the need for our discipline to get a better handle on how business models and strategies really work. To understand and feel comfortable with the language of business.

I've heard leaders in design and business heed this call too.

But why business?

There are times when I've felt like an imposter in conversation with senior business stakeholders. I'm able to talk confidently about user needs, design strategy and my process - but when relating these things to business metrics and goals, I can sometimes feel naive in my ability to confidently connect the dots.

But why - when there's already so much to learn in the discipline of design itself - could educating ourselves about business be worth the effort?

Effectiveness

I believe that Improving our discipline's business acumen could help unlock more influence and trust in the organisations we work. A better understanding of business could be a proxy for designers earning more influence, trust, and impact - improving the likelihood of contributing to the business and customer outcomes we'd like to see.

I've broken this down further on Designers in Business, but here's some of the ways I believe designers could be more effective through topping up their business acumen:

1. Collaborate more effectively

Non-designers often come to work with a business mindset. Empathy with this approach may set us up to better collaborate with these disciplines.

2. Keep that seat at the table

Design is finally gaining influence at board level, but how do we maintain it? A business lens could help design leaders ensure they are taken seriously for the long term.

3. Influence decision making

By demonstrating some business acumen, we can more confidently show why accessible, inclusive, and ethical design is great for business too.

4. Be a catalyst for change

Think the world of business could be doing better? Understanding how business works could put designers in a better position to impact how it operates in future.

5. Tell compelling project stories

Showing how your work also influenced business outcomes can make for a more relevant case study, and help your work stand out when making your next move.

6. Develop a shared vocabulary

Speaking the same language as those we work with could help designers be taken more seriously as partners influencing positive outcomes for customers.

Breaking old habits

I'm often bookmarking articles about business, and have a stack of books at home about business strategy and economics. But articles have gone unread and pages have gathered dust as I prioritise articles and books about design and design strategy over less immediately tangible topics.

This is something I want to change, and Designers in Business will be added motivation to power-up my own business knowledge. I'll be accelerating my own learning and sharing what I discover through Designers in Business, starting with the newsletter.

Newsletter, interviews, and more

I've been an advocate of the Lean approach for many years, and will be taking my own advice and starting small, measuring the response to early editions of the newsletter. I'll use feedback to shape what's next for Designers in Business and identifying demand for other resources.

Watch this space to see how Designers in Business can grow with your help.

Thumbnail photo credit - Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Main image illustrations by Elina Cecilia Giglio