Multiple hats at work

As a designer at work, there are multiple hats to wear, each of varying size and weight and flavor given the situation at hand. Here’s a quick sketch of what I think are the major roles of a designer:

1. Advocate: a designer must primarily serve as the advocate for the user/customer, defending the usability and desirability of a design in accordance to the user’s values, goals, and context. This however, does not mean the designer is simply beholden to all user requests or a puppet for customers paying big license fees (as is often the case for enterprise software vendors). It simply means the designer has a responsibility to ensure what is being decided and designed is in the best interest for targeted users.

2. Educator: a designer must often evangelize user-centered thinking and design processes and methods and tools, to help cultivate self-sufficiency for clients (if you’re a consultant), and get stakeholders on your side, understanding the value you bring as the designer.

3. Facilitator: in working out agreements and settling on designs, the designer must often facilitate discussions between engineering, product management, quality control, documentation, and other parties as needed. Some days at work, that’s all you might do! And it’s very valuable, to serve as that therapist or enabler of tough decisions, or draw out the real reasons certain features exist, or why a design option is not feasible.

4. Coordinator: because of the uniquely holistic, strategic, humanistic perspective designers bring to a problem, they are the best at seeing how different pieces of a product may not be well-connected, thus pulling together different parties to get them to realize those dependencies. A designer can help lead those revelatory moments, coordinating team discussions and facilitating them (see #3 above).

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