While it’s understandable in this era of cool, beautiful designs marketed on app stores that a start-up (or any company for that matter) desperately wants “someone to make the UI pretty”, it’s vital to understand that a designer provides significant value beyond “pretty pixels”, or “easy usability”. A designer of digital products & online services should be treated as a partner and leader in the product development process.

Below is a quick breakdown of what we’ve discussed within Citrix Product Design as a model of framing how designers can and should function as leaders within a company, for long-term organizational gain. Designers within the team, or organization, offer the following leadership value:

Operational support: the designer enables tactical excellence, in crafting the various artifacts and deliverables (user flow diagrams, schematic wireframes, beautiful mock-ups, and interactive prototypes) to ensure clarity of vision and crispness of delivery of assets, towards a high-quality product for the market. The best know how to mediate and facilitate interactions amongst peer engineers and managers to achieve the best possible design.
Educational guidance: the designer also shares the language of design, subtly teaching everyone about the guiding ideas, principles, heuristics, patterns, and best practices that underlie her capabilities. Truly everyone can become a better design advocate and user experience thinker from taking the designer’s lead.
Cultural development: the designer sets a positive tone, vision, values of what it means to become a design-savvy and driven company delivering products and services that satisfy user needs and goals. Working with a designer in this capacity has subtle yet profound ripple effects throughout the team and company overall, which is a good thing.

Indeed the best designers know how to blend beauty and purpose flexibly, with a mix of creative thinking and analytical decision-making. They could very well be a company’s most valuable team addition, striking a model of design leadership that elevates everyone’s game within the company.