10 RGD Professionals Weigh in on the Future of the Design Industry
11/02/13

Want to know how you can expect the design industry to change in 2013? We asked 10 RGD professionals with unique experiences to look to the future of this rapidly changing profession.

 


In order to determine what 2013 will bring for the design industry and those practicing within it, RGD asked 10 seasoned professionals to weigh in on three key areas:
1. Growth areas offering job opportunities
2. Specializing vs. generalizing
3. Role of design in business, government and the workplace

Contributors:

Adam Antoszek-Rallo RGD, Creative Director, Catalyst Workshop, Toronto
Catherine Didulka RGD, Dir. Creative Services, Vincor, Mississauga
Robin Honey RGD, President, Honey Design, London
David Johnson RGD, Creative Director, Swerve Design Group, Toronto
Tony Jurgilas RGD, Partner/Design Director, 50 Carleton, Sudbury
Jean-Pierre Lacroix RGD, President, Shikatani Lacroix, Toronto
Cathy Ledden RGD, Founder, Ledden Design, Toronto
Barry Quinn RGD, Partner/Executive Creative Director, Juniper Park, Toronto
Eduardo Trejos RGD, Senior Designer, Crescent, Toronto
Marko Zonta RGD, Principal/Creative Director, Zync, Toronto

1. Growth Areas Offering Greatest Job Opportunities

Seven of our respondents point to extreme growth in the digital sector, citing everything from social media, app development, online gaming, mobile, user experience and web/motion design to the emerging 3D experience. “Designers have become a vital facet between the complexity of technology and the need of  users to intuitively navigate and access information,” notes Jean-Pierre.

But how far does this tech trend go? Does a designer need to know how to code? According to Tony, “Designers need to understand the capabilities of technology and ally themselves with proficiently intuitive colleagues.” Argues Robin, “Designers who understand how code works and think about user experience have a huge advantage over designers who still say (unbelievably to me) ‘I don’t do web design.’”

In terms of working environments, “For designers starting out, the trend seems to have shifted towards internships and freelance and short-term contracts, rather than junior designer positions,” notes Eduardo. “There is also a resurgence of in-house design departments in the public and private sector.” Adam believes that “the single greatest job opportunity we will see in the coming years will be the designer as entrepreneur.”

In terms of geography, “physical location is becoming less important…we work in a combined work/live loft and deal with clients nationally,” says Cathy. “Many more companies, and especially design studios, are employing a virtual, remote workforce where people rarely meet face-to-face,” agrees David.

“Designers will increasingly find themselves working in non-traditional settings with a collaborative team of people with very different skill sets,” says Barry. “Many will augment other disciplines (app developer, marketer, strategist etc.) with their design process, skills and aesthetic.”
 

2. Specializing vs. Generalizing

Though our respondents’ answers differed on the question of specialization versus generalization, they agree that it’s difficult to ask a new designer to specialize. “It usually takes 10 years to become an expert,” says Cathy, quoting Malcolm Gladwell.

Both Tony and Barry agree that designers must understand the fundamentals, and be versatile.

Perhaps it’s best to “have an idea of what your strengths are, and focus on them,” says Cathy. “As a designer, an ideal situation is to develop a unique set of skills that set you apart from the rest,” agrees Eduardo. But he warns against “boxing yourself into a given design specialty” and “limiting your opportunities.”

Marko offers this rule of thumb: “Specialization is only important if that is something you want to do. If so, seek out opportunities that offer you a very focused experience. If you enjoy getting involved in projects that span from strategy to creative to execution in different mediums, then possessing a variety of design skills and experiences are critical.”

3. Role of Design in Business, Government and the Workplace

“While design is increasingly appreciated as a competitive business advantage, it is still under-utilized by many businesses in many industries,” points out Adam.

Yet respondents agree that while the role of design in business and government will continue to grow, it is the responsibility of designers to communicate the strategy, process and goals behind their work. “Design will become a tool for meaningful differentiation, but only if designers understand it is about more than cool, or beautiful or stylish,” cautions Barry.

“The skills of the designer are always vital. Success lies in our ability to be adaptable – to evolve with business demands and technologies,” says Catherine.

“On the cusp of a design revolution in business, there is one potentially dangerous side effect of the conceptual economy,” shares Tony. “Business people will not only need to understand designers better, they will actually need to become designers.”

Conclusion

It looks like designers of the future have their work cut out for them. Yet amidst the changing technologies and working environments, designers can take comfort in the fact that the discipline is growing and becoming increasingly important to business success.

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