Jan 26, 2021

Business-aware designer - overview

“How can I make a greater impact?”

Whenever a product designer ask me this question, I’d encourage them to learn about business. Despite if you are on the IC or managerial track, the business concept will open up a new perspective that will enable you to contribute better to the whole product development and company strategy.

The benefit of being business-aware for the senior IC

Take the Principal designer role for example. Principal designer will be partnering with a lot of non-designers (Engineer lead, Business Development, Senior Product Manager) to shape the strategy together.

You will need to be the strategic partner. For example, looking at the current market situation, what should we explore to create new value for our users? What is the biggest pain point and motivation for our users? Also, what would be the good business model for us to explore? The principal designer should be able to connect user and business to collaboratively shaping the vision.

Without the knowledge of business, it’s hard to see the designer as the strategic partner.

The benefit of being business-aware for the leadership role

Suppose you are aspired to be in the leadership roles (e.g., Head of Design). In that case, you will be representing your team and need to articulate how your team fits into the company goals. You’d need to communicate with the non-designers (product, business, data, tech) and they’re all talk in business language.

Why hiring more designers is worth considering for the company? What value are we giving back to the company as a design team? If you want to make an initiative like design system, how will that help the company’s become more efficient?

I was once impressed with one of the VP of Technology. He proposed an initiative and communicated its urgency by showing how much cost it could reduce for the company. After hearing his presentation, I thought, wow, that’s a powerful pitch. He understood how to connect all of his work to the business. And that enables him to influence the strategic shift in the company.

If you want to make a more significant impact, you should consider to appreciate the business concept and become more aware of it.

If you just go into the room and narrowly think about “design, design, design,” and if you don’t value the business…,your contribution will not be felt. - Kate Aronowitz, Design Partner at Google Ventures

The phase of learning

When learning about business, generally speaking, you’ll go through these several phases:

  1. Being interested in business concept
  2. Gradually increases knowledge on the business concept
  3. Start talking about it in the team
  4. Get comfortable enough to ask questions and challenge it
  5. Start to connect business view in your design decision
  6. Start to contribute to designing business
  7. Partnering to shape the business strategy

In this series, let’s explore a few concepts you can start learning about business from designer’s lense. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post.

ask me question illustration

Book a 50 minutes chat

Get career advice or portfolio review. We'll work together on your career challenge. More details. →

ask me question illustration

Ask a question

Send your question about the most recent post. If I can, I'll answer it on the blog. (This will open your email client)

ask me question illustration

Subscribe to newsletter

Get the post right into your inbox every time a new post is published or get a weekly email, you choose.


Mar 01 Product design leadership — Setting direction
Feb 26 Friday diary 02: On GUI history, learning, and explain features.
Feb 25 Product design leadership — Create changes
Feb 24 Product Design Leadership series
Feb 22 Documenting is a good team’s habit
Feb 18 Have a hard time getting design feedback?
Feb 18 I'm writing a book.
Feb 16 A manager cried in front of me.
Feb 15 Should I move to the managerial role?
Feb 12 Friday diary 01: On personal development, being senior, and breaking small task.
Feb 11 Evangelizing the human-centered practice
Feb 09 Human-centered team vs. Feature-centered team – Strategic insight
Feb 08 Human-centered team vs. Feature-centered team – Strategic relationship
Feb 08 Human-centered team vs. Feature-centered team – Overview
Feb 05 Dealing with top down request
Feb 03 Every team has its unique challenges.
Feb 02 Business aware designer – Recognize your competitors
Jan 29 Business aware designer – Job to be done
Jan 27 Business aware designer – Value proposition
Jan 26 Business-aware designer - overview
Jan 25 What do product designers do?
Jan 22 Announcement for mentorship program
Jan 21 Community story: impostor syndrome
Jan 20 Should startups build a design system?
Jan 18 How I overcame my impostor syndrome
Jan 17 User metrics - Signals and Metrics
Jan 15 User metrics - Vision
Jan 14 User metrics - Overview
Jan 13 Give back to the community
Jan 12 4P: framework for choosing job
Jan 11 Take things with a grain of salt
Jan 09 Principles of good portfolio design
Jan 07 An effective product design portfolio – Constraint
Jan 06 An effective product design portfolio – Structure
Jan 05 Connect user and business with AARRR framework
Jan 05 My blog in 2021
Jan 03 Should I build the feature request from customers?


Dec 30 Feature requests are stupid business activity
Dec 21 The benefit of creating a design portfolio
Nov 24 About self-doubt
Nov 11 Don't confuse design with artifacts
Nov 06 What if you need to find another job tomorrow?
Oct 26 Making sense of your design project by writing
Sep 30 When was the last time you reflect?
Sep 29 Methods are tools
Sep 24 How can I get a bigger project?
Sep 23 Entering product design – Chapter 7: Craft and analysis
Sep 22 Entering product design – Chapter 6: Narrow collaborator
Sep 21 Entering product design – Chapter 5: Soloist product designers
Sep 17 Entering product design – Chapter 4: Product designer key skill areas
Sep 14 Entering product design – Chapter 3: Misunderstanding of business
Sep 11 Entering product design – Chapter 2: Principles over steps
Sep 10 Entering product design – Chapter 1: Silver bullet
Sep 10 Entering product design – Overview
Sep 04 SAR: A framework for concise storytelling
Aug 27 Start your design with outcome
Aug 24 New medium post: Collaboration ground for design systems
Aug 17 Action points
Aug 13 Pulse check: Listen to your team
Aug 11 You should actively apply for a new job
Aug 10 Design systems' area of influence: Service (3/3)
Aug 04 Design systems' area of influence: Offering (2/3)
Aug 03 Design systems' area of influence: Identity (1/3)
Aug 01 My mom ran me to the hospital
Jul 29 Reader question: Do we need to build MVP for every product?
Jul 27 Reader question: Do I need formal design education?
Jul 24 Recognize assumptions
Jul 21 Sandbox for your personal growth
Jul 20 Start your week with questions
Jul 17 Specificity in feedback
Jul 15 Don't sell the design. Sell the business impact
Jul 14 Overwhelming inspiration
Jul 13 The framing trap
Jul 10 Everyone vs. Specific
Jul 09 The blind horse designer
Jul 08 Set the context in your meeting
Jul 07 Let's just try and see what happens
Jul 06 Managing expectation
Jul 05 Low UX maturity company
Jun 17 A simple exercise for career reflection
May 31 The “Coach sheet” – A paper-based system for people management
May 26 Bring calm to your remote team
Feb 13 Workshops can be more efficient than meetings
Feb 07 3 questions designers should be asking
Feb 06 Walking 1on1: A refreshing way to connect


Nov 21 My hope for stubborn 'Innovators'
Jul 18 Five simple actions to help you gain more time
Apr 23 Evolving Product Experience Principles at Bukalapak
Mar 09 A framework to give better design feedback: Analyze, Discuss, Suggest
Jan 28 Making a decision is hard, here's my rule of thumb


Dec 04 Essential skills for Product Designers
Nov 16 Quick life update
Nov 06 Things I learned from working at Shopify
Oct 15 About design critique
Sep 17 Common icon design problems you should avoid
Sep 06 Preface: Welcome to yellowstroke.com