For the past decade or so, graphic designers have been in high demand. Virtually every company in every industry has had need for some kind of digital marketing, and with skill-intensive programs being the only way to create professional collateral, the burden was on professional designers to fill in the gap.
There are currently 261,000 jobs for graphic designers in the United States, with new jobs being added nearly every year. But those numbers may be at risk, thanks to new technology that makes it easier for non-designers to execute all the work they need for their professions.
We’re starting to see the emergence of more user-friendly platforms, which don’t require years of training or experience to produce professional-looking design masterpieces. For example, Celtra’s AdCreator platform allows advertisers to create high-quality ads with a handful of simple customization tools. Compare that to Adobe Creative Suite, a collection of different programs that often require years of classes to fully master. Canva allows users to create beautiful social media posts, blogs and infographics with a few clicks of the button. This transformation makes skill-intensive jobs less skill intensive, and makes it possible for non-design roles to participate in design responsibilities.
A similar development has emerged in the field of website design and creation. Sites like WordPress rely on a system known as WYSIWYG—or “what you see is what you get.” This editor gives would-be web designers all the tools they need to pick a central “theme” and customize it to their liking by dragging and dropping, directly editing text, and adding images. There aren’t any special skills required, and users see a preview of the finished product as they go about designing it.
Demand for WYSIWYG editors has made them a common component of many apps, and competition is forcing them to become even easier and more sophisticated. This path could eliminate a slew of graphic design jobs, cutting the total man-hours necessary to build and design websites from scratch.
Crowdsourcing and Commoditization
Technology is also influencing a change in the type of demand for freelancers—mostly through crowdsourcing, which is, in turn, forcing commoditization in the industry. Sites like 99 Designs are successful because they connect professionals with design needs to thousands of graphic designers simultaneously, allowing many designers to submit possible designs, and only charging (and paying) for a selected “winning” design. This is driving down the cost of graphic design, the pay for graphic designers, and the number of full-time graphic design jobs available.
The Trouble With Templates
All these changes aren’t necessarily a complete replacement for graphic designers, however. WYSIWYG editors and user-friendly platforms are convenient because they offer templated solutions to common design needs. However, templates aren’t necessarily high-quality—and if they’re used by too many people, they end up looking cheesy or forgettable (which is why stock images often appear insincere). This may keep demand for graphic designers relatively high, at least for the foreseeable future, as increased competition within user-friendly platforms makes the templates on those platforms more common and less valuable.
We should also consider the fact that these new user-friendly platforms, along with their professional-looking templates, haven’t come out of thin air. As more of these platforms are created, improved, and distributed, there will be increased demand for high-level design consultant positions, so programmers can create platforms that people want to use. In this situation, the graphic design profession wouldn’t die out. Instead, it would become even more high-level and skill-intensive. Rather than working on individual designs, they would be designing the platforms that end-users rely on to produce their own individual designs. It remains to be seen whether this would add, subtract, or stabilize the total number of jobs available.
The Future of Graphic Design
Current projections for graphic designer demand predict little to no change in job availability over the course of the next seven years, but those estimates may not be reliable. They’re based on a number of assumptions about the market, and the tools available to both skilled graphic designers and other professions—and both of those are changing at a faster and faster rate, thanks to new technology.
Does this mean graphic designers could become extinct? It seems unlikely at this point. Even if graphic design tools become simple enough and creative enough to generate source materials for the bulk of consumers, there will still be a need for designers to create those tools, and demand for highly skilled designers who can create better, more original designs.
Overall, the graphic design profession may decline slightly, and may undergo significant changes, but it’s highly unlikely to disappear.
Read more about trends in graphic design at TechCo