Working As Designed

Where Product/UX Designers learn how to earn strategic influence

During my career in UX Design, I’ve observed that most designers want one thing that seems to constantly elude them: strategic influence. UX designers are passionated and talented, and they recognize that their insights can help their teams and organization avoid costly mistakes. Despite that, design constantly faces the challenge of getting ignored, shut out, or dismissed.

Most designers want one thing that seems to constantly elude them: Strategic influence.

I too felt these same frustrations. I remember one experience where I had created a quick prototype for a new microsite. The prototype was meant to be a way for us to develop our content strategy and get senior executive approval. It was unrefined and, frankly, bad. I had created it in an afternoon, believing it would never see the light of day. Once the project was approved, I got to work creating a final visual design. The project lead stopped me, and asked why I was working on this. I shared that the previous design was terrible, and it needed to be redone. He told me that I had made it, and I shared it was made to be a prototype, not a final design. I was informed that, unless I could justify the change and get it approved through senior executives (which he knew full well I didn’t have access to), we’d have to use the old design which was already approved.  

As time went on, and I gained more experience, I started to figure out how to gain more influence. I first noticed it working when I was able to convince a large group of business executives to green light a tiger team to run light weight experiments, collect data, and use the research to inform the development of our main website. I felt it again, on a different team, when the head of product consulted me during a reorganization, and let me choose the teams and individuals I wanted to work with.

I’ve never been the most talented visual designer, or even interaction designer. But I was able to influence roadmap, product features, and more because of the skills I’d developed.

I want to share these skills with others, and start a conversation with other designers who have built these skills so that, as an industry, we can become better at helping our companies succeed.

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