AIGA Design POV Learnings
By the numbers
- COVID-19 caused the marketplace to reset and this research looks at how the design industry is leading and showing value.
Findings suggest that COVID impacts were hardest on older designers outside of corporate or governmental organizations who had a more difficult time adapting to increasing technological advancements, such as integrating UX/UI Design, experience design, interaction design, data science, service design, augmented reality/virtual reality, or AI/algorithm design.
Additionally, 30% of respondents reported having difficulty adapting to challenges brought on by the pandemic, and 43% had their salaries impacted.
Optimism has never been more important as the level of competitiveness and uncertainty continued—6 out of 10 respondents believe design has a role to play in helping the industry emerge stronger from the crisis.
- According to the design industry, new technologies are emerging that will have an impact on the profession.
Being cognizant of the future and emerging trends has never been more critical for the Design community.
This research found that new technologies such as AI/machine learning (49%), augmented reality/virtual reality (38%), collaborative design software (33%), online behavior tracking/modeling (28%); and telepresence/virtual workplaces (25%) are top emerging trends that will potentially have the biggest impact on the profession.
Respondents also believe the industry will become increasingly digital, mobile, and interactive as well as multifaceted, with designers needing a more diverse set of skills.
- Design leads people and organizations, but leadership in the design industry is not always easy. Using a new index, AIGA Design ForwardTM, AIGA examines progress over time to help empower designers to be a force for change.
Findings suggest that while design is prioritized in executive decision-making, designers have not always been part of the decision process. Leading organizations were shown to be more likely to understand and see the design team as a strategic business partner, working with senior management to implement organizational strategies with respect and investment in mutual growth.
However, there is a lot of room for growth. AIGA found that only 9% of respondents noted their organizations have a design scorecard to measure design performance creating an opportunity for design to become a more strategic player in organizations.
Another interesting finding is that only 15% of Fortune Top 100 Companies have a Chief Design Officer, highlighting the fact that design is not as integrated in senior management as other functions. Designers are more than five times less likely than Human Resource and Finance professionals to be listed as part of the executive team among the 100 world's most admired companies.
- Design is essential to organizations, strengthening brand equity, creating a culture of innovation, and improving financial performance.
Workplaces with a strong culture of respect foster designer empowerment and value through fair pay and benefits, encouragement of healthy work-life balances, and care for existing and future skills.
The research likewise supports increasing designers’ business competency to develop a more effective strategic vision and organizational facilitation.
- Being a designer is articulated by the community through three main lenses: a Skillset; a Mindset; an Outcome–or Impactset.
When we asked the question, what does it mean to be a designer, these were the top three responses:
- Being a visual problem solver, experience creator, and communicator and storyteller (45%)
- Creative problem solver focused on effective communication (38%)
- Creative problem solver that prioritizes both form and function (24%)
- From early inspiration to ongoing development, design career pathways are multifaceted and nonlinear.
Artistic appreciation, creative spirit, and perceived talent are often the most common sources of inspiration for individuals to become designers.
Networking and relationship building are key to advancing in the design field; 42% of respondents said that building relationships helped them land their first design job.
- Every designer is a potential business. Based on our research, 4 out of 10 designers have two or more sources of income and continue to hone their entrepreneurial spirit.
AIGA found that designers are often self-employed and do not receive benefits. For those who do, healthcare insurance is the top choice. Many designers take on other work, and for those who do, they tend to raise their annual income on average by 26%.
Three professions within design are expected to grow in employment in the next decade: software design (up 22%), web design (up 8%), and special effects artists/animators (up 8%). This shift in job trends will require designers to remain adaptable and ready to sharpen skills to stay competitive.
- Adaptability has never been more critical and is where the profession perceives its most significant competency gap. To stay current, we found that designers continue learning new skills on-and-off the job.
Understanding designers as lifelong learners and innovators driving positive impact, we examine competency gaps alongside diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Competencies often referred to as “soft skills” can include: communication, adaptability, complex problem solving, collaboration, relationship management, and presentation skills.
The design community noted that these skills were more important for the future than design knowledge. This highlights a critical point—having design skills is not enough to perform in the world of work where cross-functional collaboration to address complex problems is needed more than ever.
The AIGA Design POV reveals that designers, depending on where they are in their careers, are seeking to grow their ability to adapt to technology and social changes, alongside increasing business skills.
- The industry must invest in diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. While women, younger professionals, LGBTQIA+, Asian Americans, and people with disabilities/difficulties, have higher representation in the community, dilemmas include: potential pay gaps, underrepresentation in leadership positions, and overall underrepresentation of certain groups in the profession.
The field’s increasing need for technological adaptability means an older generation often experiences more difficulty adapting to technology changes in the field.
It’s essential to note that some communities index higher in representation in the design profession as compared to the overall population (e.g., Asian/Asian Americans; women; young professionals). Also, the LGBTQIA+ community is more represented in the profession as compared to the overall population, with 15.7% of respondents self-identifying as LGBTQIA+ in the current study.
The design community also under indexes on Black/African Americans (4.9% vs. 12.6% in the labor force,), Hispanics/Latino/Spanish (9.0% vs. 18.0%) and Veterans/Active Military/Military spouses (1.5% vs. 5.6% of Veterans).
It’s important to underscore that while women make up 61.3 % of the profession overall, they are underrepresented at the leadership level; women make up only 25% of senior executives compared to 81% at the entry level. Addressing these disparities is imperative.
- The design community continues to inspire and impress with its social conscience as approximately 1 out of 2 designers say they have volunteered their skills to help their communities during this trying time.
Offering the AIGA Better Workplaces for DesignersTM model as guidance, our findings further bolster conclusions that a workplace of respect and care for social justice is essential to attracting and cultivating designers.
In fact, 88% of employed respondents revealed they would not work for a company whose values did not match their own.
Looking for more information?
We can help! The AIGA Design POV is composed of several reports. If you are looking for additional information or specific design industry information, reach out and we can help with your questions.