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3 Things You Should Know About the Future of Design Work

One of the most common questions I get, as I am out speaking at events or after podcast episodes is, “where is the future headed for designers?” The answer is as loaded as the question, and in an age where freelance design work is cheaper than a hamburger, it’s a conversation we need to have. 

Your logo, much like any design work you initiate, in-house or out-of-house, is the core DNA at the center of your brand and requires a plan with depth, expertise across design mediums, and industry knowledge — all things you likely won’t get on a platform of low-cost freelancers. It’s not because there’s no talent on Fiverr, it’s because the prices buyers are willing to pay on Fiverr (hence the name) are not consistent with the amount of long-term work it takes to create a successful design plan. 

When someone does not understand everything true design can bring to the table, the chances of them buying a branding package from an established designer is very low. This is where I truly dislike the bootstrapping economy we’ve all encouraged and participated in. We are so savvy and so DIY that it’s hurting our businesses and an entire industry of skilled and talented individuals. In a time of global pandemic, these are the things we should be disrupting and innovating- figuring out how we can do this better so everyone can participate and thrive. 

Highlighting the Path to Sustainability

This is where we have to call in organizations that can pool together the industry needs, standards and players. One example in the design industry is AIGA, the professional association for design. As the largest community of design advocates, they focus on bringing together practitioners, enthusiasts, and patrons to amplify the voice of design and create the vision for a collective future. Good design can solve business problems, and in the midst of a crisis, businesses need to be hyper focused on these elements. 

There is a lot of uncertainty right now across industries. Independent designers need help to highlight the path(s) to sustainability for those in the design world who are unclear about their future and the future of the design economy. We need to continue moving the conversation from the basic elements of design, and focus on the bigger picture that demonstrated the role of design in the broader context of solving business problems. 

Because it has been a long time since I began carving my path in the design industry and like many seasoned designers, I have not maintained my participation in organizations like AIGA at an active enough level to understand the benefits today, I started with their podcast, The Boston DesignCast to get some perspective and then connected up with Michael Coleman, AIGA’s Co-Director of Event Communications.

Outlook for Designers

AIGA’s “Designer 2025” provides an intense look at where the future is headed for designers, and highlights a few startling statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bureau tasked with tracking and predicting changes in the employment of Americans. 

  • The Bureau estimates zero to one percent growth in traditional graphic design positions between 2014 and 2024, well below the anticipated seven percent growth in all sectors of employment. 
  • At least twenty percent of current graphic design positions are held by self-employed freelancers, suggesting that replacements will have to start from scratch in building new practices. 
  • By contrast, the Bureau expects design positions in networked communication to grow by twenty-seven percent and the economy will add 186,600 positions in software development by 2024. 

Three Things You Should Know About the Future of Design Work 

  1.  Technology plays an outsized role in the future of design- especially as we move into a more remote and digital post-COVID future. Although initially focused on replacing physical production tasks and expanding the visual repertoire, a second wave of technological influence is increasing public access to information anywhere at any time.
  2.  The message-centered design approaches of the past will struggle in keeping design relevant and the field risks losing influence to other disciplines if colleges and universities do not reset their expectations of design curricula. It is so important for us to consider what the future will require from design and begin innovating and pivoting. 
  3. Core values matter more now than ever before. Audiences evaluate organizations based on consistency between messages and the values expressed in its products, services, and/or social behavior. People connect emotionally with stories that are authentic reflections of an organizations’ ethos and show loyalty over time when ethical and humanistic values drive all aspects of operations.