So You Want to be a Designer

Source: Design Institute of Australia

If you’re thinking of a career as a professional designer, there are some important things you need to know before making your decision.

Good news

The good news is that design – in all its many fields – can deliver great challenges, give you an outlet for your creative drive, and provide you with the satisfaction of seeing tangible results from your working life. ‘Look! I designed that!’

There’s nothing like the buzz of creativity, especially when it’s your own.

Bad news

The bad news is, that for exactly those reasons, many other people just like you all want careers in design too.

The design industry in Australia has been growing rapidly for the last twenty years – and while that might sound like great news, it’s not that simple.

Competition

Competition has become the number one issue in the design professions. The plain reality is that there are many more designers around than there are jobs.

That high growth rate in terms of advertised design businesses and people recording their job as 'designer' tends to hide the fact that the design industry also has an abnormally high under-employment rate. There are a great many people attempting to find a position or make a living from self-employment.

As a consequence, not only is it really hard to get a decent job in the first place, but there are hordes of experienced designers and design companies all competing furiously for what work there is available.

Low wages

That often means prices are forced down, and unless you’re at the top of the design tree, your salary gets cut accordingly.

Starting salaries for a graduate designer fall at the bottom end of graduate salaries. The average salary for an adult designer with five years experience is currently (2006) slightly below the average adult wage in Australia.

I’m a designer too!

Another major problem throughout the industry is that there are many people calling themselves ‘designers’ who simply don’t have the necessary skills and qualifications.

This has the effect of lowering customers' confidence in the quality of work they will receive from a designer and decreasing their willingness to pay well for it.

The design industry is not protected by any form of regulation as to who can claim to be a designer. In the absence of government regulation (which is highly unlikely), there is nothing to stop people with no training jumping into an already overcrowded market.

In addition design education continues to be extremely popular, so universities, TAFE and private education providers continue to pump out thousands more design graduates every year.

Working environment

Design is a project based activity with constant production deadlines. This can frequently require working long hours and hours outside of normal working time. If time pressures and working flexible hours are not for you then maybe design is not the right profession.

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