Designers are often misunderstood in several ways, especially in a company setting. They are perceived as rebels, misfits, or generally a bunch of people who are hard to work with. “Why must we consolidate with designers? Why must they decide what goes on in the page? Why must we hire them?”
Companies that are not design-driven often have this struggle. Engineering-driven companies think everything should center around engineering, and they reward engineers the most, and hire engineers the most. Business-driven companies think everything should center around business, and they reward businesspeople the most, and every other things must follow them. Designers don’t always get the fair share of voices, because they are executors. Only a few companies really care about design and put designers up top in the top level management. It’s hard for designers to make a change if they keep being in the “lowly” levels. They should be part of the strategic levels.
So, why are designers often perceived as rebels? Priorities, priorities, priorities. I’ve had a friend who works as a design manager in a corporation and when he participated in a managerial-level training, they were asked, “What motivates you everyday to work?”. There were businesspeople, engineers, designers and administration staff in the room. Most of the people wrote “money” as motivation. The designer friend wrote “to make a good product”. While money is important, designers come up to work daily not to pursue it blindly: they want to make good products and be known for them. We have a portfolio to build, not just CV, or sales numbers. We want to show case studies, how we succeeded in solving problems with design, and that we carry on towards the next companies. It’s not enough to just think about numbers of years we pour into a company or product. It’s more about what we achieve. To achieve it, of course we need money, but it’s not the goal.
I think this is where the problem lies. Designers care about the product more than anybody else, who mostly think they work just to survive the months. We work towards a life-long goal of being good designers who solved real-world problems, and have a design portfolio that we can be proud of. You can’t talk to designers about career progression only. You can’t talk to designers about key performance indicators only. You can’t talk to designers to go about pleasing anybody, including clients, only. Our work and life goal intertwine, and that is bigger than the sum of all parts — career progression, KPI, making clients happy, bringing in revenues, and most importantly, we breathe in and out everyday thinking about the users of the product.