As a designer, my primary goal is to understand the user and advocate for their needs. I believe in true product discovery, engaging in conversations with users, conducting ethnographic observations, gathering analytics and conduct experiments. It's about discovering what truly matters to them – their needs, their motivations, their challenges. That way I can design an effective and valuable product; it's the foundation upon which all successful designs are built.

But let’s look at how the work of a designer is structured nowadays. The double diamond framework, revered in the design community, divides our work into two main parts: problem discovery and solution creation. Half focused on the problem and half focused on the solution. However, for many designers, including myself, this process is often skewed. If we had to be realistic in the size of each stage, there's a stark imbalance. The first part, understanding the users, is often neglected or rushed for a variety of reasons.

The decision makers in your company may not allow enough time or freedom to interact with users. They may not see it as important, prefer cost-cutting measures, or have preconceived notions about what designers should focus on (visuals). As a result, the rush to deliver often cuts short the discovery phase, leaving us to spend more time on visual design elements – polishing UI components, perfecting motion graphics, and fine-tuning interaction designs. The user research that should inform these designs is marginalized, often reduced to a mere 5-10% of our time, if it happens at all.

This disconnect leads to immense frustration for designers. While designers yearn to engage more deeply with users, the reality of the business world often limits their direct access. It is others who spend the most time with users and gain valuable insights.

Who truly understands the customer then? The answer may surprise you. It's the salespeople and customer success representatives who are on the frontlines, engaging with customers daily, building relationships, and earning trust – the very trust that we, as designers, strive to achieve through our work. They hold the key to the insights that can transform our designs from good to great.

Once you recognize this opportunity, the next question becomes obvious. How can we leverage this access to user insight?

The solution doesn't lie in sidelining discovery but in redefining it. Designers need to forge alliances with the sales and customer success teams. We need to see them not as adversaries but as allies in our design process. By establishing regular touchpoints with these teams, we can share insights, identify patterns, and truly understand the context in which our products are used.

In practice, there are several ways designers can accomplish this:

As Designers we need to recognize the difference between what we were taught and the reality of the business world. Our true mandate in the tech world is to innovate not in isolation but in concert with the customers' best friends – the sales and customer success teams.

By embracing collaboration and leveraging their expertise, we can ensure that our designs truly resonate with users, offering them a seamless and enriching experience. This is not just the path to better design; it's the path to a more empathetic, user-centered industry.