Four Trends Impacting Your Design Career

What does it take to find success in the creative industry? “The three words I would use to describe a successful future creative would be being agile, being curious and being aware,” says John Maeda, president, Rhode Island School of Design. In other words, be ready for and open to change.

The Creative Group recently interviewed Maeda and other creative industry leaders as part of our Creative Team of the Future project. We also surveyed nearly 600 AIGA members to find out what changes they’re seeing now and what they expect in the future. Here are four trends we found that are sure to affect many in-house designers’ careers:

1) Creative Org Charts Are Shifting

About four in 10 in-house and agency professionals told us their teams underwent reorganization in the past year. And more than a quarter of in-house creatives (26 percent) and agency creatives (28 percent) expect their teams to undergo a reorganization in the coming year.

mds_inhowsemanagersconf-500 (1)How exactly are org charts evolving? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. At certain agencies, digital and print teams are merging into one. Some big companies are hiring creative strategy teams – the thinkers – and handing off the actual design work to agencies. Other designers and design firms have thrown the org chart out the window entirely in favor of assembling flexible, far-flung teams to meet the needs of a given project.

2) New Job Titles Demand New Skills

As teams reorganize, they’re often adding new roles and job titles, and many of these positions relate to technology. Managers told us they’re hiring for roles such as content strategist, creative technologist and creative strategist. They’re also looking for professionals who possess numerous digital design or development skills.

Things are changing so quickly that half of the designers we surveyed say their job titles no longer match what they do. It’s typically because their job duties have evolved and grown since they were hired.

Creative professionals also told us they’re preparing for the future by picking up new tech skills. The skills they feel will help them remain the most marketable? Web design, HTML5, After Effects, CSS and JavaScript.

3) Freelance Designers in Greater Demand

Demand for freelance design talent continues to grow. In our survey, 52 percent of in-house respondents and 65 percent of agency respondents expect their companies to hire more freelancers over the next three years.

Why the demand for extra help? The AIGA members we surveyed told us they need freelancers to pitch in on heavy workloads and fill the need for specialized skills that don’t exist internally. The hottest hiring areas for freelance workers include interactive, web, mobile and multimedia design.

4) Designers Face Big Creativity Hurdles

As the economy continues its gradual recovery, many designers find themselves stretched thin. And that’s hindering creativity.

Heavy workloads are the number one creative hurdle named by AIGA members. In fact, 69 percent of creative professionals told us they work more than 40 hours a week, and 23 percent report working 46 or more hours each week.

The other top creative barriers survey respondents told us they face: tight deadlines, business processes, and managers and clients who are not open to new ideas.

These four trends represent a lot of change, but change can be good – both for your career and pocketbook. Designers who approach the future with an open mind and creativity will find plenty of opportunities.

“I think the biggest growth area for professionals in the creative space is to discover that businesses want their kind of talent,” Maeda says. “The demands are going beyond the creative section into the strategy, into the sales and marketing.”

For more in-depth tips and advice, check out the TCG Blog. We’ll be talking more about the Creative Team of the Future and how to design your career with industry changes in mind.