The future of design: preparing for a career in the ever-changing world

William Woods Undergraduate

The speed of technological change continues to raise concerns among designers regarding their place in the future. From streaming and cloud processing to machine learning and augmented/virtual reality, designers today are faced with the ever-changing definition of information as something fixed. Instead, “the ‘page’ and ‘edition’ today are fluid interactions, often customizable for particular users and purposes,” writes Meredith Davis in her whitepaper Introduction to Design Futures for the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).

In light of this fast pace of change, the question becomes how can students and professionals effectively prepare or have the foresight necessary to remain competitive?

The Design Census, a survey of design professionals conducted by AIGA and Google, can serve as a resource for understanding the complex economic, social and cultural factors shaping the design practice today. It offers insights that can help students and design professionals contextualize change and inform their careers. The most recent survey, conducted in 2017, offers an inside look at design industry through measures related to work, compensation, job satisfaction and views regarding the top issues facing design.

The following are some of the highlights from the 2017 Design Census survey findings:

1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are among the top trends impacting design.
As machine learning enables the creation of tools and technologies that streamline, optimize and minimize the effort required of designers, design professionals will have more time to get involved with strategic product planning decisions.

2. The most critical issue for designers is not having a seat at the table.
While major strides have been made in recent years, designers still encounter a lack of understanding across their organizations for how design and design thinking can help solve big problems in a way that other methods cannot.

3. Most designers work full-time, in-house.
More than 42 percent of designers work in organizational settings and identify their employment status as “full-time, in-house”. This contrasts with some 28 percent that work full-time in an agency/consultancy setting. The third largest segment includes more than 15 percent of designers who identify as self-employed or freelancing.

 4. More than 70 percent of designers earn upwards of $40,000.
More than 25 percent of designers earn between $40,000-$59,000 per year. Almost 20 percent of designers report a pay range of $60,000-$79,000. More than 20 percent of designers earn upwards of $80,000 per year.

5. Most of designers are satisfied with their work.
The vast majority of designers, some 65 percent, identify their job satisfaction as “pretty good”. Almost 18 percent say, “it’s the best.” Similarly, more than 80 percent report their job security as “stable” or “rock solid”.

William Woods University offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design that engages students in activities and assignments that have a strong connection to work they will be doing in professional careers. Courses such as ART 432 – Real World Graphic Design Studio enable students to apply their graphic design skills while working with actual community clients. In doing so, students become exposed to variety of issues and challenges facing designers today.

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