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An Email About The Design Industry

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I wrote this to a friend this morning and wanted to share it because I hear these topics talked about all the time. The text from the screenshot above and ‘*’ on ‘Understanding’ is below.


Hard to know what roles they are thinking about filling, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their were jobs in the industry that weren’t being filled by the output of the education system here. The gap between industry and education is every widening.
I believe that we are at a really unique time in the design (specifically graphic) industries history.
Demand to be a designer and ‘work from home‘ + abundance of courses teaching design + access to design hardware and software +wider community understanding* (thanks Steve & Apple)  = Over supply of designers, many under qualified.
Key points that concern me about the Australian design industry:
1. Most People Speak Different Languages
(Generally speaking) Design and business are still talking to each other in different languages. Firms like IDEO, Frog & Tank don’t make this mistake. This is where value is miss-understood. Design effectiveness isn’t measured. That’s insane.
2. Digital Design & Education
(At a graphic design level) Digital design is extremely underrepresented in the curriculum’s of most education providers.
3Design & Business Education
The number of students that are graduating without adequate business skills is remarkable. Our industry is unique because even before you start your formal training you can begin freelancing or running your own business. Unlike law or medicine you don’t need any formal qualifications to be a practicing graphic designer. You also don’t need to complete any work experience. This means we have lots of students graduating and starting their own ‘Motherbird’ studio without any idea of how to charge clients or manage projects or understand billable hours.
I’m not convinced that forcing students to complete industry practice is the right way to go (although it would help). I’d rather see a much larger investment in educating our students about running a business and helping them understand that we are in a service industry. The market is impartial. It doesn’t care if we can’t manage our own time.


*Understanding: this is still relatively low. People look at Apple products and launch events and understand that design is somehow linked to increase value, but I’m not convinced that they understand why or when to use design.

3 Comments on "An Email About The Design Industry"

  • Emily says

    I find your comment about “Work from Home” designers to be a bit oversimplified. I am a full-time designer working for a bay-area startup, from home in Utah. I work the same hours I would were I in the office, communicate throughout the day with a diversified dev team based in Bangalore, and have worked efficiently and productively like this for almost a year. Working from home allows me to live where I feel most relaxed and creative. I can balance work and a family without having to pay for day care (prohibitively expensive for me and my husband in California). My coworkers take breaks to play X-box and ping pong at the office, I take breaks to feed my kids and go on a mind-clearing walk. What is wrong with that? For working mothers lucky to be design- and tech-savvy, this is an ideal situation, and one that would not have been available 10 years ago. On the other side, my company gets loyalty (I have been with them over 2 years), experience, and my hard and detailed work. This is where the industry should be.

    • nhallam says

      Hey Emily!

      Sorry – I must have communicated that incorrectly. I’ve worked from home too for various lengths of times and it think it’s great! There are a lot of pros especially if you have a family which you pointed out.

      The point I was trying to make was that if you want to work from home, then being a designer has become more and more of an option for you. And I think this is one of the contributing factors to the oversupply of designers in Australia right now.

      (Side note, there is an under supply of interface and product designers)

      Think we are on the same team here?

      • Emily says

        Thanks for the clarification. My initial reaction was based on thinking you were implying that working from home made you less of a designer. Apologies! Overall, you offer a very true assessment of the current state of the industry. Hopefully, that fact that I am an experience product designer with coding skills will keep me competitive in an industry seemingly dominated by prepubescent boys! 😀

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