The design profession seems to have a youth bias that is not working in my favor. Whereas other professions (medicine, law, etc.) value experience, the design and marketing fields seem to think that if you no longer fall into the coveted 18-34 demographic, you are too old to be relevant or useful. Experience is often seen as a sign of being “out of it.”
This is a bit scary for me because I am 61 and I have no intention of retiring. Let’s face it, design isn’t strenuous and after 30 years of working hard to get better, it’s more fun than ever. Milton Glaser is 81 and still works, so why not the rest of us?
The problem is, I know of no precedent for this. Mr. Glaser is a rock star genius. I am merely very good. Big difference when it comes to convincing prospects that they should hire me. He has fame and prestige to offset his age – I don’t. I am sure there are many designers who are in the same boat, but no one talks about it.
I googled “Old graphic designers” and didn’t get much. In addition to us boomers, there are a lot of freelancers coming up behind us who will face the same dilemma. I have been told that if you are over 40, no agency will hire you. If that’s true, what happens to all these people when they get laid off?
I am not worried for the immediate future. My niche has turned out to be the community I’ve lived in and served for three decades. I know how to communicate and sell here, and so far that has been acknowledged by a steady stream of projects. It has ebbed and flowed over the years, but I am pretty sure that if I stay visible, available and consistent, I will have a good shot at whatever’s out there.
I don’t count on that lasting forever, though. At some point some new person, undoubtedly younger than me, will decide that this would be the perfect place to establish a design practice, and will aggressively go after my market share. He/she will probably try to marginalize me by portraying me as too old to do a good job any more. This is what keeps me up at night. It’s also why I am trying to figure out how to get good projects online, but that’s another story.
Do any of you have thoughts about this? What strategies have you identified for being able to work as long as you want to?