After looking back in 2018, it’s always astonishing how fast the pace of technology is growing along with the demand to provide proper design solutions for companies looking to adopt technology to remain competitive.

Designers are being tasked directly and indirectly to not only understand the basic principles of product design but the need to understand strategically how their solution will fit with the overall business needs and understand how to navigate the waters to drive change.

Thinking beyond design, today’s designers must think about the soft skills to grow or remain relevant. Not only must they focus on the technical skills but also understand the proper methods in negotiation tactics, UX strategy, and be a leader in their own right to champion and push solutions through the multitude of touchpoints a design solution may incur.

Understanding the soft skills is essential, but becoming a leader is crucial.

Why Leadership?

Many believe being a leader is only applicable to those in leadership or management positions. Not entirely true.

Leadership can stem at all levels of an organization. People follow leaders, and they also listen and trust them. Which is crucial when presenting a solution, to pitching an idea, or motivating yourself or your team to push the creative boundaries of design.

Leaders also champion their ideas and beliefs, which is what many designers sometimes are faced when being challenged by the business. Do you stick to your guns or do you fold? Also, are you listening and is your ego in check? (That’s another topic)

Leaders also electrify the room and others around them, which results ultimately in a higher-end product or solution.

Are You Thinking of Strategy?

Having witnessed several interviews for a UX Design position recently, the term “strategy” came up quite frequently. Interviewees were shocked and caught off guard.

I ask the Chief Product Officer, why did you ask the designer if she/he knew about strategy. His response…”It’s important that they can understand and think strategically. Anyone can now design, how many of those can apply this level of thinking to their solution?”

Strategy is a skill that’s being requested and demanded from many companies in the UX field. But, what exactly do they mean when they ask for “strategy?” Do you know how to create a UX strategy? Are you thinking about it throughout your solution? Do you understand how your design impacts the overall end to end experience? Do you know how your solution fits with the global business needs beyond the requirements?

In summary, I recommend the following items to take away when considering to grow beyond just design.

1. Learn how to negotiate. It will help you tremendously down the road.
2. Understand how your solution fits with the overall business or product strategy. If there isn’t one formally created, understand how your solution impacts not only the end user but the overall impact on the business.
3. Learn effective communication methods to win approvals.
4. Learn to create a UX Strategy. You’ll be amazed.
5. Become a leader. You’ll be amazed at the impact you’ll have on your team, organization, and the overall product.