Stop fighting for users. Stop fighting for the business. Start fighting for every single choice to be made as though the business and its users are inextricably linked.
The choices a designer makes on behalf of their employer are similar to choices many other roles make on behalf of their employer.
We want the people interacting with our employer’s company to benefit. We want our employer to benefit. When we consistently contribute to both of these things, we benefit through promotions and raises.
That’s your job.
That’s everyone’s job.
A company is an attempt to build a set of systems to allow these symbiotic relationships to form and flourish.
Every person employed by a company is individually or collectively designing pieces and parts of their company. Intentionally or through passive participation. Wether they realize it or not.
Does that mean everyone is a professional designer?
It means there are people making design decision without the rigor of a professional designer.
It means there are people making design decisions with the rigor of a professional designer. Not with the same processes or methodologies, but with the same rigor.
Both of these things are true.
Design isn’t the important word in the phase: design professional. It’s the other one.
What makes a choice professional?
Skin in the game.
Choices need to have consequences. Consequences both good and bad. Those consequences need to be evaluated against previously determined theories.
If this thing changes in this way, it should have this effect.
Change the thing.
Did the change have the intended effect? Why? Why not?
The professional doesn’t need to be “right” every time. It’s likely a professional will always be inaccurate to a degree. Although, they need to have a mechanism for evaluating their work against previously held theories.
If this can’t be done, I would argue that you aren’t a professional.
You’re a document builder. You’re a diagram builder. You’re a picture builder. You’re a prototype builder. Someone else, or nobody else, is the professional. That might be adequate. It might not.
Unfortunately, that means a lot of people with the word designer in their title are not professional designers. They may be deliberately avoiding the responsibility. Or, they may want the responsibility and their company isn’t capable of providing it. Either way, design choices are being made by someone, somewhere. A few are made professionally. Many are not.
The goal shouldn’t be to have all design decisions be made by people with the word “designer” in their title. The goal is to make sure every design choice is made with rigor. With skin in the game. You should be able to tell when your approach is productive or counterproductive. You should be able to tell when the output is good and bad. Not evaluated with your, or anyone else’s, intuition. Not because someone with more authority likes it. A test. A test that everyone involved can understand and constructively critique before the work begins and after the work is complete.
It doesn't have to be statistically significant. It doesn't have to be quantitative. It could be as simple as observing a person behaving a certain way, making a change, and seeing if their behavior changes in the way you expected. Get more sophisticated as you go.
Stop worrying about who is and isn’t a designer.
Stop worrying about who gets to make design choices.
Start worrying about how choices are evaluated. Make the consequences of choices visible. Be a professional. Put some skin in the game.