Before Design can lead..

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Before we start thinking of how Designers are going to lead, we must learn to care, communicate and collaborate, properly, with ourselves (I’ve seen a project almost destroyed due to a misunderstanding of design terms and artifacts) and others (developers, change managers, sales, technical architects etc). This includes speaking their language not ours if not, it defeats the main idea of UX.


The one who does not have empathy for colleagues and coworkers they see, how can they empathise with ‘Users’, they have not seen.

Paraphrased, 1 John 4:20 (Bible)


It’s sad that a lot of us get into companies and silo ourselves. One time at a previous job, a man asked me what we, the ‘Digital’ team did, I told him about UX and asked what he did. I got to know that he was an associate partner for Change Management in the company. I ‘face-palmed’ myself and told him it will make no sense if we don’t collaborate with his team as there are so many overlapping touchpoints and skills we need.

Thing is, companies have always designed, problem is, they have designed irresponsibly i.e without much thought to people they design for, wasting lots of money in the process. This is where Designers with UX competency can help but we have much to do.

Some challenges Designers face and what we can do

1. Education

We aren’t educating properly in schools and in the workplace hence the influx of designer salespeople. What this means is companies will panic hire these salespeople and when things don’t work, the idea of ‘design leadership’ will be discarded and we are back to square one. Let’s not flood the market while the foundations are still shaky, it might destroy the entire edifice altogether but there’s always hope, Please read Death of a UX Salesman

Like I wrote 3yrs ago in UX Matters, We must take on the role of educator, regardless of our position. Let’s make sure that everyone knows for example, that UX is not about post-its, prototypes or wireframes (communication tools) but about people. Find a way to educate the next generations of Designers. One good thing about the graduate school I went to was that, we were a multidisciplinary group (Business Dev, I.T, Engineering, Product designers etc) doing design and we had to learn to communicate with each other. I hope we encourage more of this.

2. Skills

We aren’t linking up with other parts of business and/or expanding skillsets, which will make us again, highly discardable, when those people start to gain competency in UX. We need to call in the experts, engage and learn from them. There’s no thinking we can do it all by ourselves.

Be proactive at work, get these people involved in the design process from the start. Get mentors who are in QA, Technical Delivery, Sales, Marketing etc, (speaking from experience this has really helped me). Attend courses/talks/workshops which are not design-focused.

3. Language

We love our language a bit too much. Businesses are finding it very difficult to drop £50k for a 6 week project for design exploration and concept development because we have been doing a very bad job of telling them in their own language how Design will be of value i.e Increase sales or reduce costs.

Let’s make sure we understand their context and vision first. This also guards against commoditisation. One way to do this is to involve them in the design process, carry them along, it’s not magic, we can help each other.  Please read How Communication Drives Innovation.


None of what I’ve written is new but it’s so important as we endeavour to transform, positively, products and services in businesses. If we are truly on the user’s side, we must consider the users within our business and those in other businesses.

Being a Designer is not an elite thing like one HR manager told me, let’s not allow our egos get in control. Design is great, it’s wonderful but it is service to life, first, and I believe we can really change our world for the better. It is a daily struggle but one I’m happy to have signed up for.


Currently exploring the intersections of personality, design and the workplace (work, teams, environment). Interested or have anything I can learn from, please contact me!

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One thought on “Before Design can lead..

  1. Pingback: New Podcast & Events Roundup | Antonia Writes

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