Can the design industry survive?
Can the art of design survive?
That’s the question a few designers at the Vivid Design conference were grappling with in Melbourne last week.
It’s not just the future of design that is in doubt, but also what it means for the profession itself.
The conference was a chance for the design community to discuss the future, and its future, in a positive and celebratory way.
But the question that came up repeatedly, and that was often put to the audience by some of the participants, was whether the industry has a future.
“Do you think the industry can survive in the long term?” one of the speakers asked the audience.
“Yeah,” said another.
“Can we continue to innovate and grow in a way that can actually survive in an increasingly connected world?”
This is the question the conference was about, but it was also a question that seemed to have been answered a little too easily.
In a world that is increasingly connected, the design profession has always been an evolving industry.
In the 1990s, it was the most popular design field, with designers earning over $200,000 a year.
But the digital revolution that is currently in place has seen many designers lose their jobs.
“Design is now so commoditized that it’s almost impossible for a designer to be creative without a designer,” says Andrew Riddell, who is in his second year at a leading design school in Melbourne.
“In a few years, it won’t even be possible to make a living as a designer.”
And yet, in some ways, the profession has also grown in the past decade.
“I think there’s been a real shift in the way that designers are seen and paid,” says Kate Gannon, the editor-in-chief of the Australian Design Awards.
“We’ve all seen the rise of digital designers and that’s something that has been really positive.”
There’s a lot more work to do in the future.
The demand for designers and illustrators has exploded in recent years.
There are now more than 100,000 freelance designers across the world, according to industry organisation The Society of Illustrators and Designers.
“If we don’t do something now, there will be a future for us,” says Gannon.
“If we let design die, there’s no way that we’ll ever get out of this cycle.
I mean, the industry is going to die, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
To learn more about the future and the future designers of Australia, I reached out to all the people involved in the design business, including those who’ve left and those who are now in it.
I also spoke to some of Australia’s leading design thinkers, including Damien Cresswell, the designer behind the iconic ‘Gutsy’ sculpture at Melbourne’s City Gallery, and the creator of the iconic “Paintbrush” poster for the film “Maze Runner”.
I also spoke with design industry insiders from around the world.
This is what they had to say.
“I think we’ve made a big mistake in focusing on the design that we’re all passionate about,” says John Bailie, who started his career as a commercial illustrator and is now a senior designer at digital agency A&M.
“When you think about it, we’ve had a great time doing what we do because we’re passionate about it.
“The digital design and digital design-design is still the gold standard.””
He also says that the future looks bright. “
The digital design and digital design-design is still the gold standard.”
He also says that the future looks bright.
“There are still lots of interesting, creative and exciting opportunities for designers to take on and take their talents to,” he says.
“But the way the world is moving and changing, I think we’re going to need to take a different view,” he adds.
“Design is a way of thinking and communicating with the world and it’s still a way for people to connect with one another, so I think the best way to continue to keep up with the times is to look at the current landscape and try and be innovative and different.”
Bailie believes that design is going in the right direction, but the world will change very rapidly.
“In the past few years I think I’ve been one of those people who has been more optimistic than the other people who have been doing this for decades,” he explains.
“So I’m hopeful that I can keep up the momentum and be the next wave of the design revolution.”
He says the next big wave of design will likely involve “big-data, 3D printing, wearable technology, robotics and robotics-inspired design”.
“I feel confident that in the next 20 to 30 years, the way we think about design and how we interact with each other