Chris Thelwell

The final, final final

Take a bow designers, this is our time

Written on Tuesday, 17th November 2015 by Chris Thelwell

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As designers today, we’re no longer the hired help of years gone by, handing over beautiful mockups and guidelines and then moving onto the next project. Neither are we the pixel pushers who follow orders moving from the final version to the final final version as unqualified people tell us how to do our job.

Today we now have a seat at the top table – but even better than that, we’re being listened too. We’re being promoted to roles like Chief Design Officer or Chief Experience Officer. Technology and management consultancies along with their big enterprise clients are acquiring great design agencies like Adaptive Path and Fjord. There are design led, billion dollar startups founded by designers that are disrupting and creating markets simply with great design.

This is now our time, but why?

Maybe it’s because we’ve adapted, gradually moving ourselves into the middle of the business world. We’ve become experts in people, creating a new way to design. We’re driven by customers, data and an evidence based attitude that makes us hard to ignore. We’ve created our new world openly, collaborating with each other and using all the technology that surrounds us with the belief that design should be at the centre of everything we do. To get this far, we’ve had to make a few friends along the way:

Users – we speak to users

Speaking to users used to be really hard. It was the realm of market research and we had to overcome many obstacles:

  • User testing was a tick in the box exercise
  • We already knew what the customer wants (apparently), so why would we need to speak to them?
  • There was a huge fear of showing the customer something not ready
  • We followed the competition, they obviously knew things we didn’t

We’ve proven the value in talking to customers, gaining fantastic insights with hard evidence to back them up, we have our stakeholders attention now!

Engineers – we speak your language

We updated our design processes from the past to work with your new ‘agile’ methodologies. We learned your languages – any good designer today is more than capable of having a technical conversation with you (we’ve even dropped the term leading in favour of your line-height). We’re interested in understanding your problems and the way you work as we’ve realised we need you on our side to change the world.

The business – we care about results

We seek evidence to show you, we measure our output in the same way you measure success and we bring everyone together to solve problems then quickly validate the ideas with customers so you don’t waste time and money.

The days of ‘more’ have gone. More profit, more market share and more features (thanks). The agile era is coming of age, thanks to a simple manifesto and a set of simple principles the engineering world created processes and practices that changed the way we all work. But we were made to follow and adapt, we felt wrong if we didn’t play by the rules. We’ve figured how to play with your rules and changed the focus from ‘how’ to build it to ‘what’ to build in the first place.

So, designers this is our time, it won’t last long. Let’s not screw it up!

The days of ‘better’ are here. Better means good news for customers and users. We’re now listening, we know what you need. We know you’re the important person in all this. We’re focusing on ‘better’ just for you and we now have the influence and the skills to make it happen.

So, designers this is our time, it won’t last long. Let’s not screw it up!