When people ask me what I do, I have had a number of responses throughout my career, but the one thing that I have always wished I could say, is simply, I'm a designer. For most people this is too abstract, they think of design in terms of the end product, like an iPod; or a style, like modern; or the medium, like poster design. What they see is the solution.
A designer like myself has been trained and is experienced in a process, that is actually what design is, a process. A good designer looks at what is trying to be accomplished, and has a specialized set of tools and skills to analyze the problem, research possibilities and propose a solution.
I like people to understand that I apply the principles of design toward a stated problem and offer solutions in a variety of domains. The problem could be something like, "I need a logo for my company", or "I need a package for my product". I can skillfully apply the design process towards those problems and deliver a logo or a package. Or, the problem can be more broadly stated "I need more business", or "we need our customers to think about us in a different way", here again, the process is applied to the problem and a solution or a set of solutions is generated. Perhaps an integrated marketing plan, a new campaign or a promotional event package.
Solutions to each of these problems would likely be different end products. You might not think about a graphic designer working on shoe designs, or an environmental designer working on a new identity, but a designer can do either. When I get a person to recognize that design is a process, to recognize the application of design, rather than the thing designed, they more clearly understand my role as a designer.