The importance of relationships for designers in business: how to be persuasive, articulate decisions, and make sure we're involved in decision-making
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Issue 8
April 2021
Welcome to the latest edition of Designers in Business.

The more I explore how designers can be effective in business, the more I realise that relationship building is more important than business acumen if we are to have meaningful impact.

This month's newsletter has a particular focus on relationship building, communication, and trust: how to be persuasive, articulate decisions, and make sure we're involved in decision-making meetings. I'd love to hear if you successfully put any of the ideas shared in this issue to use.

On a personal note, I'm wrapping up the Design MBA this week. It's been an intense 6 weeks as part of a wonderfully global cohort. Expect a full review in the next issue, and plenty of useful content ahead as I reflect on knowledge I've gleaned from the course.

As always, I hope you find this month's newsletter useful in your journey to business confidence. But if you've decided it's not for you, there's an unsubscribe link in footer of this email.

Until next time...

Tom Prior
Curator of Designers in Business
The talk
Stories of Articulating Design Decisions
Talk by Tom Greever at Jam Barcelona 2019

As designers we value our ability to empathise with the users we design for. But how could we apply our empathy-building methodologies to our business stakeholders? Could this help us better understand what they need from design, and how we can communicate design decisions to them more effectively?

As Tom puts it, "you can have the most innovative product in the world, but if you're not able to effectively communicate to the people who hold the keys to your success, then your product is never going to see the light of day".
Screengrab from a talk by Tom Greever at Jam Conference 2019
The resource
Business Model Navigator
By BMI Lab

Business models can seem a little complicated at times, so bringing them to life with practical examples is a great way to demystify these concepts. The Business Model Navigator breaks down 55 popular business models in simple terms, sharing well known examples and case studies of their successful implementation.
Screenshot of the Business Model Navigator
The sources
Our monthly spotlight on the people and organisations providing great business content on the regular. Ones to follow, bookmark, and support.
Mia Blume
Design Executive Coach and CEO @designdeptco, Mia is brilliant at encapsulating the challenges for designers in business (and ways to tackle their respective frustrations) in a Tweet.
Photo of Mia Blume
The Futur
Founded by Chris Do, The Futur is on a mission to educate designers in new ways. With a particularly strong focus on business fundamentals, their content is always punchy and well produced.
The Futur logo and banner
Author of Just Enough Research and co-founder of Mule Design, Erika's compelling takes on the role of design in business make you sit up and take notice.
Photograph of Erika Hall
The language
Top Line & Bottom Line

'Top Line' is another term for an organisation's total revenue. This figure represents gross income before any deductions, and is therefore typically the first (or top) figure on a financial report.

An organisation's 'Bottom Line' is their net income after all expenses have been deducted from their total revenue. This number will typically be the final line on a company's profit and loss statement, hence the name 'Bottom Line'.
The long reads
Camera Obscura: Beyond the lens of user-centered design
Article by Alexis Lloyd

As designers we are responsible for the tangible pathways into many business models. With our enduring focus on optimising for human-centred (often consumer) outcomes, our methods can neglect other actors in our business ecosystems.

This essential read explores how user-centred design can have undesirable consequences when optimising for customers. Alexis Lloyd explores practical ways to more broadly map the systems our design will affect, and how our work can better serve previously excluded actors.
Image of a human in the centre of a dial graphic - image courtesy of Rebecca Zisser
Persuading the Unpersuadable
Article by Adam Grant for Harvard Business Review

Have you ever come away from a meeting convinced you'll never change the mind of a stubborn stakeholder? Or been reluctant to reach out to a business colleague who seems difficult in group situations? In this excellent article Adam Grant discusses ways to win over those who may seem unpersuadable, and how behaviours we observe in group settings may not be representative of a colleague's true personality traits.
Screenshot of the HBR article titled Persuading the Unpersuadable
The quote
“The more I practice content strategy at scale, in design systems, and in corporations, the more I realize success is never about the technology, tools, and platforms, but always about the people and culture.

Whether you care about governance or not, it's going to cost you.
The thread
Choosing a business book as a designer is tricky. Most weren't written with our discipline in mind, so the replies to this Tweet from Nick Finck are a great place to start if you're looking to add a designer-approved business book to your reading list. A hat-tip to Peter Winchester for getting this thread on my radar.
Screenshot of a Twitter thread about business books for designers
The interview
In this short clip from a full interview, Rochelle King shares how building relationships with established stakeholders (who have seen the value of design) can be a path to opportunity through project sponsorship and advocacy.
Screenshot from an interview with Rochelle King
The business story
Why Nike is Winning
Video by Athletic Interest

Nike are often cited as a company whose deep investment in design has contributed to their enormous value and appeal. But what are the other factors in their success? In this explainer from Athletic Interest we learn about the ups and downs of the sneaker wars, and how Nike continues to dominate through product and business model innovation.
Screenshot from the video Why Nike is Winning
Are you enjoying Designers in Business? Know someone who might be starting their own journey to business confidence?

If you do, feel free share this issue or the Designers in Business Newsletter signup.

Thanks! Tom - Curator of Designers in Business
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