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Many designers are finding themselves in one of the most exciting moments of their careers. The design industry is in a growth stage, from UX, CX to Service Design the market has never been hotter. As many companies and industries evolve through digital transformation, the skill sets of designers are in high demand.

For many people entering or expanding into new roles, there are best practices to follow. Some are entering the job market for the first time and others are part of expanding teams. This article will examine three situations many designers are finding themselves in: their first or new design role, transitioning into UX and moving into a leadership position.


First/New Design Role

This is a very exciting time to be entering the design industry. Budgets and teams are growing and so is the responsibility put on designer’s shoulders. For a recent graduate or someone transitioning into the industry, there are some things to keep in mind when entering the field of design.

Regardless of the type of design, there are core considerations for any career path:

  • List the core skills – soft and hard skills – or knowledge needed for that career
    When developing the list of skills needed to start a new design career be sure to do a lot of research. This can be anything from reading articles or reaching out to experts to interview them. Use this research to start building a list of skills needed to successfully join a design team or a new role as a designer
  • Start Where You Are
    Once a list of skills has been created, gain an understanding of which of those skills should be developed more. This requires a bit of self-examination, what skills do you already have? And which would need to be learned or updated with new knowledge? Gathering this information helps you to understand where you are now, and how long it might take to get to where you want to be.
  • Develop a learning journey to acquire the new necessary skills
    It is important to ask questions such as, where can I learn more about this topic? How can I develop and learn more about these new skills? It is important to experiment and find different ways to learn and acquire new knowledge.  

For example, to gather skills in  improving research abilities, it is possible to design a tailored path of learning. This can include reading books or case studies about different research methods. Try observing an expert in the field conducting their research, either through volunteering or by interviewing them. Reach out and find a mentor that can help you design your path. ADP List is an amazing resource for designers. It is possible to sign up for mentorship or join discussions on design related topics. Remember the best course of action is to try not just one, but a combination of new experiences. 

Whether someone is new to the field of design or moving into a new role there is an interesting correlation between how design as an industry has grown and matured and how a design career can grow and mature. 

The evolution of design careers can be compared to the 4 orders of design from Richard Buchanan. Buchanan argues that design has evolved from a primarily visual experience in its most basic form to a system that redevelops the way we create culture and society at its highest.

The 4 orders of design according to Buchanan are:

  • The first order is visual: graphic designers, visual designers;
  • The second order is industrial: product and object designers;
  • The third order is interactions: service designers, UX & UI designers, design operations or designer of learning experiences;
  • The fourth order is systems: culture, business, systems designers and design leaders. This is the design of human systems, the integration of information, objects, interactions and social, work and learning environments. The focus is to design businesses, learning experiences, systems, culture, organisations, and cities


Each of the orders and the careers that relate to them demand different sets of skills. However, regardless of the specialisation, field, or industry all designers should have the following well-developed:

  • empathy
  • collaboration
  • experimentation mindset
  • critical thinking 
  • creative confidence

With those skills as a baseline, the next task is to develop expertise needed for a certain specialisation or level of design. To go from the careers in the first order to the ones in the fourth, it is critical to develop systemic thinking, management skills and leadership qualities. All of these skills are essential, especially for the careers related to the third and fourth order.


Becoming a UX Designer

As more and more organisations develop new digital products and services the field of UX (User Experience) design has grown. The role of a UX designer is to help users achieve their goals when interacting with a product or service. The goal is to deliver delightful experiences to the user’s so they will come back again and again. The demand for UX designers has created new opportunities for people who are currently in the role and for people who wish to transition into it. 

For a move into this growth area, it is important to develop the following skills:

  • Strongly developed empathy;
  • ability to ask questions and observe;
  • active listening;
  • curiosity;
  • visual thinking;
  • systemic thinking;
  • familiar with information architecture;
  • prototyping;

Regardless of the next step in a designer’s career progression, it is important to remember, it always starts with practical work and then moves into strategy. With more experience, comes different responsibilities such as managing teams and acquiring leadership skills. While not all designers aspire to leadership, the skills required to make a designer successful in their career translate well into leadership roles.


Transitioning To A Leadership Role

Understanding the value of design within organisations has advanced due to the ever-growing and competitive global market. The effects of digital, systemic, and cultural transformation that began in 2020, have not slowed down and are gaining momentum in 2021.

Regardless of the growing understanding of the critical importance of design, it is still important to establish the part design plays within an organisation. Design now has “a place at the table” where major strategic decisions are made. And this means more and more designers are stepping into leadership roles.

Design leaders are responsible for creating a design-driven culture, evangelising and training people to handle day to day problems with design thinking. They are also engaged in measuring and scaling design methods and processes to build more profitable products, services and systems for their organisations. 

While this can feel daunting for designers who have never held a leadership position, we at Echos strongly believe that design is leadership. And there has never been a better time to acquire the skills that will help build new solutions to the problems that are before us.

Reach out to learn more about our Design Leadership, Design Thinking Online or other courses to build the next steps in a fulfilling design career.


Authors: Nayara Borges in collaboration with Igor Casenote.

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Nayara Borges

Nayara joins the Echos team as an instructional designer and facilitator of learning experiences, using design as a catalyst for transformation. With a career dedicated to education, human development, culture and social innovation, Nayara has already been part of national and international companies and projects. In her multidisciplinary career, she worked in innovation and leadership consulting companies, where she was involved in projects and training for companies such as EDP, Parker, Magazine Luiza, among others. She also had deep contact with an entrepreneurial reality, facilitating social business acceleration programs and mentoring entrepreneurs at Alterna Impact, an innovation hub in Guatemala. On her desire to get to know the emerging innovative ideas around education, she went for a one-year journey, visiting disruptive educational programs and initiatives in Latin America. As an entrepreneur and education enthusiast, she leads workshops on nonviolent communication for educators.
She studied Pharmacy at FCFRP/USP and helds a Master Degree in Globalization and Culture at FESP/SP with a specialization in facilitation by Instituto Ecossocial.
What drives her is the possibility of causing a positive impact in the society. She loves dancing, photography and listening to people’s stories.

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