Spoiler: There is an inconvenient truth, if you are a designer, you will hate this post.
We’ve seen them grow from small scale garages to multi-billion dollar companies. The last 10 years have been testimony to everything we have come to appreciate technology for. With great new tech strides being made and advancements that can put 2015 to shame, we’ve grown to accept that a digital world is not only the future but is more importantly the present.
A few years ago, we had no idea what a UI or UX designer was. What exactly did they do wiith those wireframes? It did not make sense. Fast Forward a couple of startups later, cut-throat markets emerged creating a need to understand and build better patterns in online user behavior. While we can argue if eCommerce is truly the way forward, what remains to be acknowledged is that today it has outperformed most conventional businesses that otherwise had long term objectives. With the boost of disruptive technology, we now know that these new companies need younger talent that are not afraid to let machines do their work. UX and UI design has today become a science of some sort. Who would have thought that, deciding where to place a button on a website and how much shadow vs opacity it should have, would take endless iterations? Fact: Consumers are fickle and if you aren’t offering them something clean, new and awesome then you’re going to lose them to your competitor. This is why more number of grad students are taking up design courses and learning the fundamentals of what their next company needs them to know. It’s a great paying job and it’s exciting. Another fact: This job will die in less than 10 years.
Do you really believe that companies need a Chief Design Officer when computers today are automating half of their work? Remember the days when mockups were first created in low fidelity, then moved to high fidelity and then reiterated to make changes before it went to production? Now, applications like Adobe XD and Auxure do everything managers want by literally pressing a button. I’ve talked to a dozen leaders, designers and thought scholars from various online niches and they all hide something under their vests. They’re scared. Just like our forefathers despised the boon of computers to take away their labourous jobs, we too are scared that the technologies we are building will outperform ourselves one day. While we may not want to accept it, it is an inevitable truth that the jobs we love today and the ones that currently help our companies make millions of dollars will be replaceable by systems that do it better. Fact: In time, businesses are going to focus more on the 20% of their customers and they’re going to reinvest a better chunk of their earnings in sales and business development.
So, who’s going to keep their UX and UI jobs and what will it evolve into? The solution is already here. Freelancers. While we move closer to a more social and well-connected world, we cannot avoid looking at an angle where freelancers and consultants will form the new backbone of online as well as offline businesses. Why you say? Well for starters, the rate at which companies are innovating their technologies is admirable, but they’ll always need more designers to help them create beautiful user experiences. The reality is that companies cannot afford more than 1 or 2 lead design strategists. Their only option will be to scout freelancers that are willing to work or consult for a fraction of the price. If the goal of these companies is to pan out a successful P&L with the least bit of risk or investment, the freelance/consultant model works flawlessly. I agree that outsourcing work can create communication gaps but let me remind you that this is the future and there are already a billion apps that are facilitating next-gen collaborative communication.
If you are a young UX/UI, Visual Designer or Design Strategist and working in a company where you think you’re getting paid well today, I’d suggest you roll up your socks and get on board the train that’s inevitably taking all of us into the future.