From your Kelloggs box, to the promotional poster for Splendour in the Grass, to the process of using your phone to order an Uber – design is just about everywhere you look: on your device, on billboards as you drive, even at your breakfast table. The opportunities for graphic, UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) designers to make their mark are endless, reports Natalie Brown.
Design: it’s a broad term for a rapidly evolving field. While keeping up with new technology and programs can be difficult to stay on top of, “there are opportunities for designers that didn’t exist ten years ago,” explains Erin Turner, a designer and researcher. “It’s exciting to see how the industry is expanding and diversifying.”
Merging creativity with strategy, communication with brand savvy and aesthetic with logic, graduate opportunities could include anything from digital design to publishing, or even packaging. These days, most roles require some understanding of digital. Even the most print-dedicated book designer needs to understand how their work translates to a screen, and even the most accomplished brand designer needs to be able to apply their logo to a multitude of mixed media.
The industry is diverse — jobs sit within agency and in-house departments, and like much of the rest of the job landscape, things are moving in a contract, ‘freelance economy’ direction. Joanna Wright, publisher of WinWin (and whose career background is graphic design), points out that flexibility and a fluid workload suits many designers:
“It is rare that you would meet a designer who doesn’t have a number of freelance side-gigs, passion projects or extra-curricular creative stuff going on.”
This isn’t necessarily for the cash! “Designers are generally a passionate and ambitious bunch, with lots of creative ideas, and problems they’d like to solve,” she says. “It is also good — nutritious, almost — for designers to keep their work moving, try different things, explore various mediums.” Fun fact: WinWin started off as one of these side-gigs!
As our day-to-day work/life becomes increasingly digitally-focused, user interface (UI) design and user experience design (UX) are fast evolving areas in the industry.
“User experience and user interface design take the unique design thinking, visual thinking, pattern making and empathy of visual communication and harness these to create human-centred interactions,” explains design leader at Facebook, Bec Paton. “This can be anything from a website to an exhibition space and can be hugely technical or border on fine art practice.”
Less about the visual, UI and UX design are more about crafting experiences, according to Senior Product Designer at Deloitte Digital, Jennifer Nunez; meaning they suit people with all kinds of skills.
“UX designers come from a range of backgrounds including psychology, anthropology, graphic design, content writing, business analysis, and even front-end-development.”
Three essential tools every designer should have in their kit? Communication, collaboration and, most importantly, adaptability.
“No job is ever the same,” says designer and painter (and Edition One Cover Artist), Evi O. “A book or brand always has a unique message. Because of that I’ve never lost my passion, not once, from day one to now.”
The industry is deadline-driven and can be demanding, but every day is different. “Some days are meeting-heavy,” explains Bec Paton. “Others will be facilitating, researching and generating concepts … visualising complexity … usually it’s a real mixture.”
Now more than ever — in our data and information-dense age — we need creative design to express, and design-thinking to solve, the complex challenges of our expanding world, says Cath Leach, a graphic designer and illustrator with a passion for protecting our oceans.
“We have enough information and data. What we need now is ideas to create, we need to share our stories, our science and our intelligence visually, in a way that can be clearly understood and accessible to all.”