How to design with and for executives



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With the rise of design thinking, it’s becoming more common for designers to work alongside executives. But what does it take to make that partnership successful?

We invited Uday Gajendar to talk with us about how designers can raise their executive IQ, how to apply UX methods towards empathizing with executives, and how designers can make themselves more valuable once they’re given a seat at the table.

Watch Uday’s full talk below, or read on for our short recap.


Designers and executives

Uday began with a story from his first job. During a conversation with an executive at Oracle, he was asked, “What do you want to do as a designer?” 

Uday stammered and talked in circles. The executive said, “I think what you want is influence.”

Uday said that all designers want to participate in the 4 vectors of influence: vision, culture, strategy, and process. But there are countervailing forces working against you—not sabotaging forces, just competing agendas and motivations from other areas like marketing, engineering, sales. Those teams want to affect those vectors of influence, too. 

Design has been recently invited to the table in a big way. CEOs are starting to recognize the value of design—and they’re beginning to champion UX.

Now at the table, designers need to be thoughtful of their language so the discussion around UX doesn’t deteriorate into personal opinions around colors or other superficial reductions of design. The language of executives is not the typical design language of affordances, composition, and so forth. It’s a language of objectivity: criteria, targets, problems, benefits.

“Create a persona for executives—it’ll help you see things from their perspective.”

Designers have a tool from their toolbox that can help. Uday recommends this: create a persona for executives, similar to what we do when thinking about our users and customers. After all, executives are a distinct group, speaking with different languages—sometimes jargon—and with a different mindset.

By creating a persona, we can begin to empathize with them and see things from their perspective.

To hear Uday’s persona of an executive, and more tips on how to improve your relationship, watch the video above!


Margaret Kelsey
Margaret Kelsey leads content marketing at Appcues. Before Appcues, she built content programs for InVision’s design community for 3.5 years and has roots in painting and PR. She’s a big fan of puns, Blackbird Donuts, and Oxford commas—probably in that order.

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