the graphic design blog that speaks the truth

What I love about design and working within a creative industry the most is that it is constantly changing. From trends, software, clients to working practices, the design world in which we, as designers, live is a great place to be. But is everything really that peachy? Or are we at the peak, waiting to fall?

Competition (literally)

Graphic design is an over-saturated market, no doubt about it. The lure of what seems (from the outside at least), an attractive lifestyle, along with a misconceived acclaim to fame, means that more students are enrolling in design-related courses than ever. Eventually, a percentage will graduate and seek design-related jobs. Also, don’t forget the uneducated hobbyists who claim to be ‘Graphic Designers’ & then, of course, there’s those already established within the industry. With service providers multiplying at a rapid rate & the current economic climate limiting the number of new start-up businesses, is there enough work to go around? I asked 4 top designers for their opinions:

nathan1 Nathan Sarlow of Nathan Sarlow thinks the education system could help:

It seems that the majority of people that graduate from design school come out with the same knowledge and a similar style. I personally feel that the education part of the design industry needs to be guided more by active designers and less by teachers (that used to be designers). This way, the students would be learning more about current ‘real world’ design and not theoretical design that will only aid to give them a false sense of their worth to the industry. With hundreds of competitions running every week across dozens of spec-work sites, more and more companies are re-inforcing the spec stye of sourcing work is acceptable. Regardless of the quality of the end result, very few of these companies will ever be convinced that paying a designer for their time is of any inherant value.

Unfortunately, I believe spec work will always exist within the design industry, as long as there are people willing to take it on. It doesn’t effect me directly though, and it shouldn’t effect you either, but that doesn’t mean I am saying what these crowd-sourcing sites are doing is right. Fortunately, there are still clients out there wise enough to know that they have to pay for quality, we just need to justify our own positions in the market & our services. As has been said above, being a designer is more than just drawing a pretty picture and sending an invoice, it’s about sellling yourself too. Theres a big difference between selling yourself and selling your soul though.

We could all take the easy option & light our stakes, pick up our pitchforks and run to the crowd-sourcers to point the finger of blame or we could just take a look at ourselves, and look at how we can be improved. After all isn’t that the role of a designer anyway?



  1. 29/05/09
    3:32 pm
    Here in Brazil the scenario is not much different from all said here. But I have both optimistic view from Mike Rock, that the market is progressing to looking forward to a more professional work, and the pessimistic view from Nathan´s. What may be happening is the grow of a abyss between total quality, and total lack of quality. High end and low end growing apart. As a result, every passing day, to make the junp between those two extremes will be harder, not only for us designers, but also for our clients
  2. 29/05/09
    3:51 pm
    Hey Gareth, thanks for including me in this discussion. Just to clarify my 'down-hill' statement, it's not necessarily my perception of the work itself, more in reference to the public perception of the industry itself. As Sean noted perfectly 'The design industry is now reduced to which designer can offer the lowest price for design work.' which is the best indication that the work (or the end result), is not valued as much as it was say 10 years ago.
  3. 11/06/09
    2:09 pm
    I just have to say, I completely agree that the design industry on an every-day commercial level is in serious downturn. I think Gareth is right is stating that it's over-saturated - it really is. Sites like People Per Hour and are not helping the cause by 'cheapening' the value of a good design service - through job-postings which show budgets well below professional industry rates. All this does is encourage the amateur 'wannabe' who inevitably, often provides a service below-par, which leads to increased levels of scepticism. I've been in the business now for over 15 years and I have definitely seen a change for the worse. Much as I love the potential of digital, it's only helped to compound the issue further and devalue design as a discipline.
  4. 16/07/10
    10:22 am
    I have to agree that crowdsourcing is driving down wages in graphic design, website design, IT, photography, illustration and prettymuch any creative job. I'm especially finding that clients do not have time to "research" who they look at anymore (since we don't cost much apparently, companies won't "waste time" choosing the right person for the job) and this leads to clients requesting things outside my skillset constantly and assuming they can get an ecommerce site from me for $100 (which Ishake my head and sigh at, by the way - as if). Clients today can see the biggest and most beauteous things in the world, built by designers who command excellent salaries or exceptional passion. However, clients still expect me to produce same but for $100. Basically, what I see is a whole lot of uneducated clients, who have bought into a culture of cheap and can't afford or refuse to look at paying any more for services their grandson can do for free (albeit of a much poorer quality). I do see a lot of work which is rushed, half finished and of bad quality and I do get good paying jobs fixing these up. Just my 2c
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