How far out are you willing to go?
You find designers anywhere nowadays. Instead of finding them in creative houses or agencies they’ll be found on start-ups, consultancies, working to in several other industries other than their own. From finance, insurance, healthcare to transport, you name it. Ultimately, they’ve taken themselves out of their comfort zone and now they can be found working alongside business people, developers, product managers and hopefully together with users too. Companies are realizing what value that designers can bring onboard.
This requires some adaptation. And no, not only from the companies' perspective.
For designers not used to work in corporate or a non-creative environment, it can prove to be a challenge. You’re not working with a client anymore - like you would in an agency or as a freelance designer - you’re working for a company. There's new values to be learnt, objectives, targets, a new culture, but most importantly, a company is inserted in an industry of its own. The question is, how far out are you willing to go in order to understand it? How far out of your own subject are you willing to go to meet with the next subject closest to you?
Be design articulate
There's a lot to learn, but also a lot to demonstrate. Is your company design mature? If no, reach out. Use the right moments to explain why design is important. This means that, to kick off a designer-and-business relation you’re going to need to be able to articulate the importance of design so that your team becomes design-considerate.
Be prepared. Prepare good design arguments to bring to meetings, get some of your peers onboard with you from developers to Product Managers. Get the ball running in terms of design conversations. It’s up to designers to take design with us wherever we go.
It takes time and effort to communicate the importance of design. It becomes your job nr. two, it's hard but communication is inherent to good design work.
Of course, sometimes you'll feel you're reaching dead-ends, you might have to face pointy eyebrows or even suspicious looks, but don't give up. Get people curious about the process by getting them onboard and soon they'll understand how you'll be able to help. Remember, it's all about understanding the context and enhancing collaboration.
The industry is your new context
I worked in a consultancy for several years in a company which worked with very different markets. These subjects didn’t relate much to my interests directly yet indirectly it was everything I needed to experience.
Hearing tons of different subjects that I didn’t relate to, being present in all those meetings (tech, business, telecommunications, and banking meetings), hearing out how questions are asked and how questions are answered made my work much richer than another where I would receive a chewed briefing with no depth of the problem at hand. Going that far out into business helps clarify ideas for everyone. Where we are all on the same page.
Design work blended in with other subjects becomes more impactful than if it’s isolated.
In the end, design is never about design, it's about the subject being designed.
If designers want to start understanding businesses, they can start sketching out business models, ask questions to learn about the industries' vocabulary and apply it back to question the matters further. All these new business concepts will be useful to apply to your day-to-day design problems.
When we work in industry-driven companies our design context is the industry itself. How far out should you go? As far as you can until you have all context you need in order to make your design better.