Leaning into business as in-house designers
Prototypes, pixels, and craft. As designers, we love these topics. Our social feeds are filled with excellent tutorials dedicated to helping us make beautiful things and learn the intricacies of complex software. But suppose you work as an in-house designer and desire to go beyond the “Senior Designer” job title. In that case, you need to lean into driving business impact in your organization. If you want a “seat at the table,” you must learn the language and motivations that drive those already seated there. And for many of us, this language can feel foreign.
Learning the language of business
Two of my extremely talented teammates, Lauren and Charlene, recently shared their learnings from a Design Dept workshop. One of the most impactful takeaways was how designers should tailor their language and content to the audience they are presenting to. As designers, we love storytelling and speak in the narrative. But if our audience responds to numbers and facts, our pitch may not be as persuasive as we hoped. We leave frustrated and misunderstood.
As a designer, you may think about a problem like this: To improve our customer experience, we could redesign our site’s navigation. In a recent interview, we talked with John, a marketing lead looking to implement our software. After signing up, John was frustrated navigating our product, which made for a poor experience. We could better direct new users like John by creating a clearer hierarchy and stronger calls to action within our navigation.
A story like this may resonate with other designers but not land with our business counterparts looking to prioritize projects and work based on business impact.
Rephrasing the pitch to business counterparts: We see a 65% drop in adoption rates in new users after sign up. We believe optimizing our navigation can drive user adoption by 15%.
This speaks to experience in terms of facts, data and lands the business impact that making a change could have.
As a designer, you care deeply about the customer experience. But to influence how that work gets prioritized, your language may need to shift to get the buy-in your need. Understanding your audience’s motivations can help land your case. We can’t wait for others to translate our language for us. We need to learn the language of business.
Mia Blume had a great thread about this recently:
Resources for in-house designers who want to lean into business impact
I’ve been thinking about business language and design lately, and recently posted an idea that got a lot of traction:
Here is a list of recommendations and resources I received in responses and direct messages from my post (I can’t vouch for all of these, think of this as a starting point):
- Business Thinking for Designers
- Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors
- Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters
- Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance
- Creative Strategy and the Business of Design
Courses & Workshops
Sites and newsletters
- Stratechery - On the business, strategy, and impact of technology
- Proof of Concept
- The Beautiful Mess
- Harvard Business Review
Good luck. Go forth and “Business.”