Designers with programming skills that complement their understanding of visual form and human interaction are in high demand. The design of online communication strategies is now based less on models of information access than on models of conversation and communities of interest in which users collectively generate the content and rules under which technological systems operate. Software design responds to an increasingly “datafied” environment in which digital devices sense and respond to human behavior. Designers in these companies typically work as part of a team, often with computer scientists, social scientists, and business managers. Unlike some other forms of practice, software designers constantly update products, paying close attention to how they are used and changes in the preferences of users.
Service design is an emerging area of design practice. It is the activity of planning and organizing the people, communication, and physical aspects of a service (interactive technology or stores, for example) to improve the relationships between people in their engagement with a variety of products or activities and service providers. It is now possible to find college programs in service design, however, many of today’s practitioners were educated in other design fields, such as communication design.
The US government estimates that roughly 20% of communication design practice is under self-employment. Sole proprietors and freelancers seek out clients and manage all aspects of their practices. They may employ bookkeepers and lawyers to handle routine operations, such as billing and contracts, but they are accountable for consistently generating new work, delivering a work product, and coordinating the work of vendors (printers, photographers, copywriters, computer programmers, etc.). Freelancers are contracted by consulting firms and businesses on a short term or project basis of specific duration, usually without fringe benefits. In some instances, design firms test the suitability of future employees by hiring them first as freelancers.
Learn more about the trends shaping the practice of design with Design Futures.