In the recent years, the design field has expanded but it has also fragmented. Simply being a designer is not enough. Companies are looking for that one magical creature to fill the jobs of many – also known as the unicorn.
What is even more worrying is that the definition and boundaries of design are somewhat blurred. Product design graduates are a perfect example for this case as they may stumble upon hundreds of job offerings which are meant for UX/UI Designers, meanwhile they are more interested in developing physical products. As you can see, the job market has never been more confusing for the contemporary designer, who is often left wondering if they have chosen the right discipline. “Should I have specialized more or is generalization the right way to go?”
What is better? T-shaped, or an X-shaped designer - or could I be a circle?
In order to distinguish the plethora of design positions we have started to add increasingly more specific descriptors to the front of our titles: Digital Visual Designer, UX/UI Designer, Product Designer, Brand Designer, Communicatio Designer, Data Designer, Production Designer, Social Media Designer, Industrial Designer, Creative Designer, Systems Designer…
It is a mess! There are very little to no University courses that would prepare perspective designers for some of the positions mentioned above. What does that tell us? That if you want to start a career in design it is going to take a lot of hard work and self-study. Bonus points to those who can find their niche as soon as possible.
Alternatively, we could lean into the multidisciplinary nature of design and reject the ever-increasing specialization in the industry. Design has always been a multifaceted discipline; it is a practise that spans different forms and mediums. There is only one thing that stays consistent – the thinking.
Unfortunately, creative thinking and problem solving are not enough evidence to convince potential employers who are hopelessly looking for unicorns with +5 years of experience in design disciplines that have not even existed at that time.
Let's consider the breadth and depth of designers:
Are there Industrial designers who excel in Graphic design? Yes.
Could you have architects design furniture? Oh, yes.
Painters designing clothes and accessories? Cool!
What if animators made toys? Sounds great!
How about Illustrators writing books? I am here for it!
There is a lot of potential for some wonderful projects. Afterall, it is all about creativity and the practise of design, but what is the essence of design? To me it seems like it is less and less about ‘solving’ and increasingly more about ‘making’. There is nothing wrong with that – except, there are a few things wrong with that. For example, what is the ‘Why’ behind all of this?
More content? Attention? Trust? Money? Essentialy profit...
Perhaps you, dear reader, can let me know what your best guess is. But overall, the best designer would be the one that is passionate about the work they do. Everything else is just about having the right tools and software which should be easy to pick up, especially for someone who already has some experience with other programmes.
If you are not happy with that conclusion then I believe I have found a great alternative to the ultimate designer, but you will not find them sitting behind a computer or messing around in the workshop. Nope! These guys and gals spend most of their time behind a hot stove… Yes, you have guessed it - I am talking about chefs!
(Please excuse me, I might have watched too many cooking shows in quarantine.)
If we look past the surface of shows like MasterChef or Chef’s Table, we can find a great deal of design skills in action. From coming up with a recipe (Idea generation), prototyping, testing, adjusting, to serving the final dish with beautiful food styling (UX and UI). Not to forget the human-centred nature of cooking. Chefs are not basing their recipes just on their own taste buds, they get feedback and adjust accordingly. They also have the greatest responsibility of all - keeping their customers safe. Their customers are not just users instead there is a relationship built on trust and full of care. Professional cooking elevates the eating experience to a different level, it is not just about satisfying our primary need to sustain ourselves, it is about feeding our soul.
Now, isn’t that what great design should be?