The fluorescent lights buzzed overhead as I took a deep breath, gathering my thoughts. I was in a Fortune 500 boardroom, surrounded by suits, ties, and the overwhelming scent of expensive cologne. This was my moment to shine, to present a product concept I had been refining for months.

I straightened my posture, ready to take the floor. Just as I was about to share my vision, a sketch was thrust in front of me, interrupting the charged silence. “Hey, can you make this look good?” one of the execs remarked, barely looking at me.

I was dumbfounded. Here I was, with years of industry experience under my belt, yet all they saw in me was someone to spruce up their drawings. My role, they assumed, was merely to add the superficial cherry on top. I wasn’t there to influence, to lead, to mold the future of the product. I was just there to… color it in? It was clear as day: I was boxed in, not by my abilities, but by their perceptions.

That chilly boardroom taught me a stinging truth. Despite the growing appreciation for design, many designers are still typecast. We’re trapped in a mold that society, and often even our employers, have crafted for us. And as I would later discover, breaking out requires more than just talent – it demands rebellion.

The Designer’s Dilemma

Alright, creatives, let me paint a picture for you. Imagine being at the peak of your game, nailing every design you touch, yet constantly finding yourself playing second fiddle in the corporate band. Ever felt that? Like you’re floating in the murky middle layer, delicately balancing between the grand directives from up top and the grind of execution down below? Yeah, it’s a familiar tune.

Picture this: you’re in the middle of a meeting, your mind brewing with fresh, transformative ideas, and then comes the age-old directive, “Just make it pretty.” Boom! Just like that, the bubble bursts. As designers, we’re often caught in this rut, this weird space where we’re perceived as middle children. Hungry for recognition, always overlooked. While the world acknowledges our flair for making things look good, the true depth of our potential remains unexplored, confined to just getting the aesthetics right.

And here’s the kicker. Many think of design as just the cherry on top, like an afterthought. They forget that a cherry alone doesn’t make a sundae. Many products are conceived in closed boardrooms, lightyears away from a designer’s desk. And when they finally do think of us? It’s mostly a last-minute invite to sprinkle some design glitter on an already baked concept. But isn’t the real magic when design is kneaded into the very dough of an idea?

The echoes of “make it delightful” are often heard, but the bigger question remains: why is our role often seen as only adding the delightful touch and not the backbone of conception? We’re not just about slapping on colors or picking fonts. Design is an intricate dance of functionality, user experience, and yes, beauty. But somewhere, the world seems to have typecast us as mere decorators.

The struggle is as real as that coffee stain on your white tee. Every time you feel you’re on the cusp of presenting a game-changer, you realize you’re not even in the room where it happens. You’re handed a pre-decided roadmap and told to jazz it up. And let’s be real, how much jazz can you add when the tune’s already set in stone?

But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom. The silver lining? Understanding the dilemma is the first step towards solving it. And to get to the heart of the matter, we need to trace back the origins of this mindset. Spoiler alert: a lot of it ties back to how we’re taught design in the first place.

The Flawed Pillars of Design Education

Let’s break it down, gang. You remember art school, right? That sacred temple where we worshipped the brush and pixel, refining our craft, obsessing over the minutiae of lines, colors, and shadows. Sounds dreamy, but here’s the snag: while most of us emerged as Picasso-level craftsmen, many were left dazed when it came to navigating the convoluted labyrinth of the business world. And, damn, that’s one glaring blind spot.

Our educational journey often set us on a path to create impeccable designs in isolation, neglecting the broader ecosystem in which these designs would live and breathe. We learned the importance of aesthetics, the magic of a balanced composition, but where were the lessons on understanding market dynamics or consumer behavior? Ah, the good old “perfect design in a vacuum” paradox.

The trade-off? While our portfolios glittered with dazzling designs, the strategist lurking within many of us was stifled, gasping for breath. The canvas was vibrant, but the bigger picture was often missing. It’s like being an expert swimmer who’s never seen the ocean. You can do butterfly strokes all day, but if you don’t know how currents work, you’re in for a rude awakening.

To put it bluntly, we missed some killer opportunities. We became artisans in a silo, somewhat disconnected from the pulsating heart of the industries we served. Not entirely our fault, though. The system was a bit jacked up. Design curriculums glorified the craft while largely sidelining the strategy, leaving many of us ill-equipped to influence business decisions or even understand them.

And look, it’s not about pitting art against business. No way, dude. It’s about intertwining them, understanding that design doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s about acknowledging that a design, no matter how gorgeous, loses its luster if it doesn’t align with business goals, market needs, or user desires.

Let’s get something straight: I’m not throwing shade at design schools. Hell no! They’ve birthed legends. But if we’re gearing up for the next wave of designers to be more than just visual maestros, if we’re looking at producing design leaders who can walk into a boardroom and command respect, then a revamp is long overdue. We need a holistic approach, one that fosters the union of design and strategy, art and commerce.

To rise to our potential, to shatter those damn glass ceilings, we’ve got to understand the power design truly holds. And trust me, it’s not just about creating something that’s easy on the eyes. It goes way, way deeper.

Shattering Misconceptions: The True Power of Design

Alright, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this. So many folks out there – and I mean a boatload – think design’s just about making things look snazzy. They think it’s all about the surface, like putting lipstick on a pig. But damn, they’re so far off the mark it’s almost comical.

Design? It’s a powerhouse. It’s not just about the visible; it dives deep into the psyche, molding experiences, not just creating pretty objects. Think about it: ever been drawn to a product you didn’t even know you needed? That’s design working its voodoo magic – it taps into emotions, creating connections deeper than the Mariana Trench.

Let’s throw out some big names: Apple, Tesla. These behemoths didn’t just strike gold with pretty products. They nailed it because they understood the real firepower of design. They realized it was about leading with design, not just following trends. Their products didn’t just look good; they felt good. They answered needs people didn’t even know they had. These companies mastered the art of anticipating desires, forging paths where none existed. And who led this charge? Designers with a seat at the decision-making table, equipped with a vision beyond the aesthetic.

But let’s not make this a fanboy session about industry giants. Let’s zoom in on what makes design such a potent weapon. The power of design lies in its ability to be a bridge. It melds form with function, creating harmonious solutions to real-world problems. It’s the unspoken language that makes you prefer one brand over another, even if you can’t quite put your finger on why.

Then there’s the forward-thinking prowess of a trained design mind. The keen eye that spots potential pitfalls and opportunities, the innovative spirit that reimagines stale processes, and the intuition to predict how users might think, feel, and interact. Essentially, designers are like the oracles of the business world, forecasting and shaping the future.

Yet, for all this clout, why do so many designers feel like they’re banging their heads against corporate brick walls? It’s time to pivot from mere visuals and establish design leadership as a cornerstone in redefining businesses. We’ve got to flex our muscles and prove that design is more than skin deep.

So, you got the chops, the creativity, the skills. But do you have the ambition to climb higher? To step out of the confinements of mere design duties and embrace the larger framework of business dynamics? If you’re nodding your head (or even if you’re just damn curious), let’s dive into how you can elevate your game. And no, I’m not talking about mastering another design software. I’m talking about grabbing the business world by the horns. Ready to level up? Let’s freaking do this.

Elevation 101: Stepping Up the Ladder

Alright, my savvy designers. You’ve got the skills, the flair, the pizzazz. But let’s keep it real: if you want to strut your stuff in the big leagues, you’ve got to stretch your wings beyond the canvas. We’re talking about taking a deep dive into the vast ocean of business dynamics. But before you get those deer-in-the-headlights eyes, just chill! I’ve got your back.

Look, I get it. The terms ‘trade’, ‘economics’, and ‘world views’ might sound like the background noise at a snore-fest boardroom meeting. But here’s the kicker: these are the tools that can catapult your career from “Hey, can you make this pop?” to “What do you think of this business strategy?” That’s the evolution we’re aiming for. Going global means understanding more than just Pantone shades; it’s about grasping the dynamics of markets, the pulse of cultures, and the rhythm of economies.

Now, I’m not saying you should be the next Wolf of Wall Street (minus the scandals, of course). But imagine the edge you’d have in a design meeting when you can tie your choices to market trends, cultural shifts, and economic forecasts. You’d not only be the design genius but also the person everyone turns to for insights that connect design to real-world stakes. Basically, the Beyoncé of business meets design – irreplaceable.

And speaking of irreplaceable, it’s not just about understanding; it’s about communicating. If you’ve ever felt the frustration of seeing your ideas get lost in translation, it’s time for a new language lesson. Let’s talk boardroom lingo. Before you think I’m turning you into a corporate robot, chillax. This isn’t about giving up your unique voice. It’s about enhancing it. By learning to translate design into strategy, you become a bridge between creativity and execution. When you discuss a color palette, it’s no longer about “feelings” but about target demographics, brand recall, and market penetration. In essence, you’re speaking the language of decision-makers, translating your vision into a dialect they resonate with.

But there’s more to this elevation than just talk. It’s about shifting your conversations to realms beyond just aesthetics. It’s about bringing innovation, foresight, and strategy to the forefront. Imagine, instead of waiting to be handed a brief, you’re there when it’s being crafted. Your inputs shape not just the design, but the very essence of a project. Now, doesn’t that sound like a thrill?

Let’s wrap this bit up. Designers, it’s about being more than just the creative mind; it’s about being the strategic soul of a project. So, are you ready to elevate, to climb, to soar? Strap on those wings, and let’s redefine what design truly means in the world of business.

The Revolution: Reimagining the Role of the Designer

If you’re thinking we’re about to embark on some textbook rehash of the designer’s role, well, bro, you’re in for a wild ride. We aren’t here for that. We’re here to turn shit upside down, break some molds, and light up the way for the next-gen designers.

Alright, spill: how many times have you felt like the sidekick in a superhero movie? You know, always there, making things look fabulous, but never quite getting the limelight. A Robin to Batman, if you will. It’s high time designers stepped into the spotlight. But to do that, we’ve got to reimagine our roles entirely. It’s time for a metamorphosis, from being passive followers to proactive leaders in the decision-making process.

Hold up, I hear some of you mumbling, “But Geoffrey, I’m just here to design, man. Why should I want more?” Well, because every product, every service, every app, and every brand has a design story. Who better to tell that story than you, the creator? It’s time to seek seats at the conceptualization table, not just wait for an invite. Picture this: instead of being handed an idea to execute, you’re right there, brainstorming, shaping the narrative, steering the ship. That’s the shift we’re talking about.

And guess what? This isn’t just about us. It’s about what we pass on. Think about it. How do we want the next generation of designers to step into the arena? Do we want them armed with just color palettes and typography or with a fierce knowledge of how design shapes business, strategy, and innovation? The answer’s clear as day.

It’s not just about redesigning curriculum; it’s about rethinking education. Let’s not churn out mere artists; let’s forge strategists. The blend of business acumen with design sensibilities is a dynamite combo. And this combo doesn’t just start post-graduation; it begins right in our design studios. Encourage young designers to think bigger, broader. Let them question not just the “how” but the “why”. Why does this design matter? Why will it resonate with its audience? Why will it redefine a brand? When we start asking ‘why’, that’s when we step into realms of strategy and influence.

Now, a quick shoutout to my entrepreneurial designers out there. You folks are onto something magical. You’re the pioneers, showing the world that design isn’t just about creating; it’s about leading. From startups to established entities, designers can drive visions, create legacies, and, yep, change the world. So whether you’re sketching logos or laying out business plans, remember, you’re a trailblazer.

In this revolution, we’re not just redefining roles; we’re redefining futures. Our future, the industry’s future, and every young designer who’s sketching dreams right now. So, are you in or are you in?


Damn, what a journey, huh? From boardrooms to classrooms, from sideliner to headline act, it’s clear the design game is ripe for a makeover. But here’s the kicker: it’s not just about redefining design. Hell no. It’s about empowering the DESIGNER.

I want you to picture something. Remember the first time you sketched something out, and it just clicked? That eureka moment when you realized, “Damn, I can create!” Well, hold onto that feeling, because it’s more than just about creating. It’s about influencing, shaping, and, yeah, running the show.

The design world, as it stands, has immense talent. Everywhere you turn, there’s innovation, creativity, passion. But if there’s one thing this journey has taught us, it’s that raw talent isn’t enough. Nope. To truly break those glass ceilings, to truly get that seat at the high table, we need more. We need authority, strategy, voice, and the audacity to think big.

Here’s the truth bomb: being boxed in isn’t just a designer problem. It’s an industry-wide catastrophe. When we limit designers to just aesthetics, when we dismiss their potential to shape narratives, we’re leaving tons of potential on the table. It’s like having a Ferrari and never driving it over 20mph. Damn waste, right?

So here’s the call to action, and it’s a loud one: “Hey designers, rise the hell up!” You’ve got the skills, the drive, the artistry. Now it’s time to add some strategy into that mix. Step into those boardrooms, not just with sketches, but with insights, ideas, and a vision. Become the voice that doesn’t just pitch but shapes the pitch.

And to the bigwigs out there, the CEOs, the execs, the decision-makers – here’s a word for you: evolve. The world’s changing. What worked a decade ago won’t cut it today. Realize the goldmine you have in designers. Listen to them, empower them, and let them lead the charge.

Closing this out, let’s get one thing straight: this isn’t a call for rebellion. No. It’s a call for evolution. It’s about recognizing our value, stretching our boundaries, and stepping the hell up. We’re in an era where design isn’t just about how things look; it’s about how things work, how they feel, and how they transform experiences.

To my fellow designers, think about the legacy you want to leave behind. Do you want to be remembered as someone who made things pretty or as someone who redefined industries, strategies, and perspectives? That’s the real question. And hell, if you ask me, I say we go big or go home. Let’s not just change the design game. Let’s freaking own it!

So, what do you say? Ready to rise? Ready to not just sketch, but to lead? If you’re with me, let’s do this thing. Because, my friends, the future? It’s damn bright, and it’s got ‘design’ written all over it.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.