The Future of Work (For Designers)

I am spending a month in the west coast of the US and have been meeting with graduate designers and talking to them. I have also been making lists of design firms, and independent designers to add to my list of designers/ firms in my LinkedIn network.

I have heard that there is a huge concentration of design firms in the Bay Area, and an even larger concentration of designers looking for work in the west coast. Design is often mentioned as being a domain that informs the right way to think about products, services and ways of organising work.

In short design is considered important, and designers are considered to bring value to the enterprise. Combined with the intensity of innovation activities in the bay Area this produces a great need for design talent.

In short lots of work (jobs) for designers! So we would expect to see lots of design bureaus, lots of designers in big companies and many freelance designers. So we do. Yet there is a level of unemployment, and a level of discomfort. The discomfort is -“I am not doing what I was trained to do” or in another instance I heard “there were certain things I enjoyed at Design School. I am not getting a chance to do those things”.

Speaking with designers on the ground I have developed a particular understanding of the disconnect between what happens in design school and what happens in the world of work. I have looked at texts that speak about the “future of design” to see if they offer insights about this disconnect. (I list a few of these texts at the bottom of this post). They don’t and they do. Texts on the FUTURE of DESIGN focus upon – hey there is a new world upon us and we need to emphasise these skills in the curriculum. And there is Tim Brown who mixes up the old (it will be with us for some time yet) and the new (designing new kinds of ‘things’ like school ecosystem)

You will not find a focus upon the journey of an individual designer – no journey map as it were. Hence these two points, significant in what I hear said, of value for a thinking exercise are:
1. There is a lot of unemployment in the design community.
2. The kinds of work opportunities available are different from what was discussed at Design School.

This is an interesting set of facts. I do not find it necessary to rush to propose a Manifesto (that would be unwise) or a curriculum. It is important enough for us to pause and contemplate this contemporary design condition. The narrative of the existence of a level of the unemployed and of the existence of a disconnect is local – West Coast US – in this instance.

Project The World After (2006~ ): My research Project TWA looks into the world of work for design graduates. I am talking with designers and allied creatives to understand what the world of work looks like.

Further Reading re the FUTURE

Peering Into the Future of Design Education (and Design in General): Five Key Insights From Our ID-Centric 11-Part Interview Series


Yesterday we published the last installment of our D-School Futures series, in which we interviewed the chairs of 11 leading industrial design programs about the evolution of ID education. Along the way, we gleaned quite a few insights into what it’s like to be an ID student today, how schools are reacting to rapid changes in the industry, and what all of this means for incoming students and recent graduates. For those of you who haven’t had time to read the full series—or who just love a good listicle—here’s our shortlist of five essential takeaways. More

A Dialogue on the Future of Design Education

By Naomi Gornick, Ian Grout

The paper investigates two educators’ responses to dealing with world uncertainty and change and falls into the conference’s general theme of ‘Tools’. The authors take their existing programme curricula, philosophy and strategy as a starting point and discuss together their ideas for answering the following questions:

  1. How well are our current programmes responding to our changing world?
  2. How may we change programmes in the near future with the objective of developing best ways for preparing students for the current and emerging local and global contexts?

The authors seek to move design education from discipline specific to holistic, from relative certainty to better best-guessing, from designer as individual to designer as team worker, from standard of living to quality of life. More

IDSA Interviews

Useful voices of the successful ones. More

Tim Brown

The view from our offices, where we’re being asked to design new systems in education and health, looks quite different. Who would have known 15 years ago that Kaiser and the Mayo Clinic would be hiring design teams? Faced with having to support a vast aging population, the health care industry has had to think a lot more like designers. More

The Future of Impact Design Education

Few of us today have a degree in “impact design,” “social design,” or “public interest design;” though a few of us who are now students may be studying exactly those subjects, some even in degree programs with precisely those names. These ideas are still so new, and yet they are already becoming vital. With change happening so rapidly, and the need for social change so great, it’s only natural to wonder how soon the new will become the norm and how the training of those who strive to design for social impact will transform in the years to come. For this precise reason, our first installment in our feature series on education asks twelve leading practitioners a simple question: What is the future of impact design education? Or, more specifically, what will the education of impact designers look like ten years from now, in the year 2025 … More

State of Design: How Design Education Must Change

by Don Norman

For design to succeed, grow, achieve its potential, and train future leaders, we envision a new curriculum. In our vision, these new programs combine learning the art and craft of beautiful, pleasurable well-crafted design with substantive courses in the social and biological sciences, in technology, mathematics and statistics, and in the understanding of experimental methods and rigorous reasoning. Programming and mechatronics are essential skills in today’s product world. Not only will this training make for better practitioners, but it will also equip future generations of designers to be better at developing the hard, rigorous theory design requires. More

East Coast versus West Coast Designers

Great to see design cultures represented as an infographic. Click image to open full Infographic.