Supply and demand in the graphic design business

I received an e-mail the other day from the Design Council regarding Designers into Schools Week. This is an initiative to raise the profile of design and design thinking in secondary schoolsí and involves designers helping with school design projects, ru

I received an e-mail the other day from the Design Council regarding Designers into Schools Week. This is an initiative to raise the profile of design and design thinking in secondary schoolsí and involves designers helping with school design projects, running design activities and so on.

This sounds like a very worthwhile scheme, but part of the e-mail bothered me. A suggested activity mentioned was to arrange sessions giving advice on design careers and the experience of being a designer. I have been a partner in a graphic design consultancy for over 15 years and in my opinion there are far too many designers out there chasing too few jobs as it is, and so I am really not sure we should be encouraging young people to follow design as a career – certainly not in graphic design anyway.

Whenever I advertise for staff, I always get at least 70 applicants and in the current climate, I imagine this would more likely be hundreds. We have laid off five staff so far this year and only one has so far found any work. Added to this, a job in graphic design can be stressful because of tight deadlines, involve long hours and is often not particularly well paid.

Just as there are too many designers chasing too few jobs, there are too many design groups, chasing too little work. This imbalance in supply and demand is the root cause of all the problems that most graphic designers I know love to moan about – free-pitching, ignoring of intellectual property rights, low fees and silly deadlines.

A few weeks ago I needed a plumber. I found some ads in a paper and called a few plumbers. I was quoted hefty daily rates, minimum call-out charges and found in any case, most of them were too busy to take on the work. Funnily enough, no plumber was very keen when I suggested a free-pitch for the business either – whoever fits those taps the best, gets the job.

Maybe we should be keeping designers out of schools and maybe closing down a few colleges while we’re at it? If supply and demand were more in balance, pay, conditions and respect would improve for design consultancies and designers alike.

Melvin Rutter

Director

Poole & Rutter Creative Design

melvin@pooleandrutter.co.uk

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