The single best thing designers and design managers can do to elevate the perception of design is to prioritize profits over pixels. It might sound crass and I know it isn't the fluff that's generally sold to designers, but it's the truth. There's a lot design teams can do but profit-over-pixels trumps all of it. If you can correlate good design to profits, you will win. The business will increase your budget, the right people will give you more operational room and everyone will see design as a strategic cross-company initiative.
1. Make the data team your best friend
Our \data friends,\ as Rochelle King from Spotify puts it, are powerful allies to designers. If they can help you make informed product decisions, you're always going to walk into a room with anyone and make a defensible, logical and thorough case for your design work.
2. Spend a lot of time with partners and peers in different departments
This one gets overlooked a lot. Get away from your desk and talk to people in marketing, sales, support, data, engineers, HR etc. Get to know people personally and professionally, make it about more than work. This simple act will gain you quite a few allies. Allies are important if you are trying to be a change agent. People are more likely to change or try experiments with people they know, like and respect.
3. Overshare your work
Simple steps you can take here are to use a products like Invision and Wake to make your work available for business leaders and engineers to review on their own time in a comment-able format. I'd also recommend buying large foam-core boards and pin your work up on there for people walking by to see. Leave post-it notes next to the board so they can leave comments for you asynchronously.
4. Be strategic when you pitch ideas
I teach my design teams to pitch ideas with this simple template- What problem does your idea solve? How do you know? Why should we solve this now? What is the user benefit? What is the business benefit?
5. Make your design process inclusive
Include business people and engineers in design decisions. Other than the obvious \togetherness\ factor, they're very helpful in offering diverse sets of insights that will enable you to be more informed with your design decisions.
6. Make your design process transparent
Non-designers need to understand how you work, this understanding builds a lot of up-front trust and buy in. Take a slide deck, draw a step by step process on it that's easy to understand and socialize it to people in the business. Teach non-designers what your process is so the next time you say a flow will take a week, the process isn't a mystery box.
7. Do great work
Put out work that you're proud of, that's thought through, that's rooted in a clear problem that the business agrees is a problem, that's build-able, that's considerate of the user, and that included insights from stakeholders (aka not you designing alone like a rockstar designer).
8. Teach your design team the \business\ and business vernacular
Designers tend to focus on craft whenever they're cornered into explaining design decisions. They're better at responding with \here's why the design looks this way\ but business people really just want to hear \here's how we expect this design to convert\ and \here's how we know.\ The other side to this is designers need to make a strong effort in understanding how the business works, how many lines of business there are and how their work impacts each line of business.