What Designers Actually Do — and the True Value of Design

Designers, your work is a major investment, not a sunk cost. Don’t lose sight of your worth.

Written by Billy Frazier
Published on Apr. 20, 2022
What Designers Actually Do — and the True Value of Design
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Designers are a rare breed.

When we’re called to, we can build brands, whip up websites and create beautifully functional products. There is an insane amount of value in what we do for others, but sometimes this value is underappreciated or even worse, flat out ignored.

Don’t get it twisted. By now, the value we deliver should be crystal clear.

What Do Designers Do?

We identify potentially complex problems across countless industries and we design seemingly simple solutions. Not only that — we deliver these solutions through visually compelling stories. As designers, we can use these stories to communicate the value behind our own ideas.

Think about this for a second.

Stories compel people towards a specific call to action, whether it’s connecting with friends across the world on Twitter or exploring that same world in-person thanks to Airbnb.

Some of us help craft the story while others may impact how it’s shared with the intended audience. Whether we’re talking about small businesses or corporate behemoths, clients desperately need this type of value.

It may be easy for clients to undermine these abilities, but as designers, you should never second guess the value you provide to others.

In a connected world, where communication is (mostly) seamless and new ideas are seemingly infinite, there are now more opportunities than ever to share what we do with others.

Thanks to the internet and social media, we can create our own opportunities and speak directly to our audiences, which in turn allows us to take on the potential risk of starting a company all by ourselves.

This intersection of design and entrepreneurship creates a unique opportunity for designers who are willing to push back against the status quo and question norms that have existed for decades. In fact, this is the best place to find problems that need solutions and inspiration for your next endeavor.

More Design Advice From BillyDon’t Major in Design! Do This Instead.


Enter Entrepreneurial Design

When we apply design principles to the creation of new ideas, products and services, entrepreneurial design magically becomes a viable path forward.

Take a second and think about everything you’ve learned as a student of design, both in class or on your own.

I don’t just mean how to use the pen tool in Photoshop or how to layout a magazine in InDesign. I’m referring to all of the principles, processes and methods you have used in order to solve the everyday problems you face.

Whether you’re using a highly iterative process with a client branding project or A/B testing copy for a website, you can directly apply these approaches when designing your own solutions.

Designing solutions for others as a designer is similar to inventing solutions as an entrepreneur.

If they’re doing their jobs right, designers and entrepreneurs not only listen to the people paying them, but they also reach out to customers in order to make their solutions even better.

Another benefit is that both designers and entrepreneurs are capable of wielding empathy as an effective weapon when working with others. It might sound weird to call empathy a “weapon,” but when it comes to building things that people actually use, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others can pack a huge punch.

If you still doubt your ability to create your own path as a designer, just look around. Study the current landscape for design in entrepreneurship and you’ll notice there are more startups with design co-founders than ever before.

Startups like Airbnb and Nest realized from day one design is an investment, not a sunk cost. Not only that, tech-based companies are now acquiring creative firms so they can both create and own the content they put out.

I’ll admit — entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. In fact, if you’re risk averse and crave stability, then this might not be that path for you.

However, if you naturally find yourself identifying everyday problems while looking for solutions that can save people time, money or energy, then you just might make the perfect entrepreneur.

The thing is, you’ll never know until you learn the true value of design . . . and your worth as a designer.

Once you learn those things, you can use design to create your own path.

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