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When it comes to the design profession, there’s a long and complicated history of “trendy” and “disruptive” design.
But a new survey of more than 1,000 designers has found that a lot of the current focus on the latter is actually misguided, and the former is the wrong direction.
“It’s easy to think about design as something that only needs to be used in the context of your brand,” says Jason Luscombe, senior design consultant at Kroll.
“The reality is that, for many designers, that’s the most important aspect of their work.
The most influential design is not how it looks, but how it can change people’s lives.”
The survey asked more than 100 designers whether they think the “disruption of design” is a good thing or a bad thing, and whether they thought design should be about making things better, or making things simpler.
The results are sobering: the trend in favour of the former, which includes the likes of the Apple Watch and the likes from Adidas, has largely been driven by the likes to the left of the centre, while the trend to the right has mainly been driven, ironically, by those in the “less disruptive” space.
A few designers, like the UK-based designer David Laidlaw, have argued that this is actually good for design and bad for business, as it lets people “exploit” the power of design and not need to be “in control”.
The survey also found that designers tend to think that the world has changed and that designers are not the only ones who need to change, and they’re often quick to point to the examples of the world’s top designers like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who had a much more difficult time with the “new world order” of digitalisation.
The biggest challenge, says Laidaw, is that designers have not yet fully integrated their “digital identity” with the brand they work for, and that they are not sure how they will be able to effectively manage that.
“If you look at the design of the likes [of] Nike or Adidas, they’re all very focused on the branding and the brand, and very much in the world of marketing,” he says.
“But their designs were created by people who were working in the field of design.
And there’s this idea that designers, when they start to do something they’re doing it by themselves.
But if they’re using someone else’s product, it’s not really that they’re making that decision.”
As an example, the survey asked designers what they would have done if they had been asked to create a design for a product by a design firm called Lidl, which was working in a completely different industry than design.
The survey found that the vast majority of designers think they would be more likely to work with Lidll, who did a lot better with them than with designers working in design, and were more likely “to find their creative vision and the vision of the brand resonated with them”.
In the end, it seems designers have to find their way around the “no-design” dilemma, because the survey suggests that design is a “hugely influential” aspect of the professional work that designers do.
“In the last 20 years, the field has become more and more complex, so designers are getting a little bit frustrated,” says Lusbrook.
“Design has become a really big part of the fabric of how you do your job, but the question is: what is it that makes designers feel they’re in control of their lives?”
The survey was conducted by design-focused online platform Kroll in partnership with Design Matters and found that 85 per cent of respondents believe that “design is changing our world” and are “in need of a better design”.
The most popular reasons for this were: changing how people perceive the world around them; wanting to make more sense of the way we communicate and interact with each other; and wanting to create an “inclusive design” environment.
The respondents also said that the best thing they could do for designers was to focus more on making their work more “design-friendly”.
But the survey also revealed that there are more positive views of designers than negative ones.
“People have the opportunity to be more creative in a lot more ways than people think,” says Daniel Matson, a senior lecturer in marketing at the School of Visual Arts.
“We need to stop saying ‘we need to get rid of design’.
Design is really a good part of our lives.
It’s part of what makes us who we are.
And we need to keep designing.”
The study also found the best way to get more people involved in designing was to get them to think outside the box.
The top reason that respondents gave for this was that “they’d rather work on their ideas and their design ideas rather than just making the final product.”
“I’m actually more interested in people who