Luke Jones

Thinking strategically as a designer

January 16, 2024

I’m a manager again, and part of being an effective design leader is anticipating what areas your team is going to need to be strong at in order to meet the demands of the company and the industry as a whole. My hypothesis in 2024 and beyond is that the designers who will stand out are those who can think and act strategically.

A designer who excels in their career is someone who can develop instincts around what a successful product looks like, which problems to solve (why and who for), and then prioritize that work based on what they know. What does that mean? Here’s what I shared with my design team.

What is Strategy?

It’s lots of things, but it’s using what you know to inform your decision making process in addition to what you find out from our partners, donors, and people who use our products for other things. Here’s a handy bullet list:

It isn’t defined by:

The latter bullets aren’t to say you shouldn’t be doing these things – many of them are important parts of your job as well!

How to be strategic?

You shouldn’t drink from the firehose, but you should consider how you can sprinkle in some of the following (along with the above) to help you out.

A growth path for a designer lies in cultivating the ability to think and act strategically. A strong designer in 2024 and beyond is one who can confidently and intuitively grasp what defines a successful product, identifying key problems, and prioritizing their tasks accordingly. This involves using internal knowledge and external insights to focus efforts, understand organizational uniqueness, finances, vision, and needs, and bridging the current state with future goals.

Designers who stay informed through industry channels, attending events, monitoring competitors, and more will help the designer and their team become indispensable in the competitive product landscape. Once a designer has these areas of expertise it makes everything easier.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree, disagree? I don’t have comments here, but join in the discussion on LinkedIn or via email.

Photo by Wolf Zimmermann on Unsplash.