How to keep a good designer?
By Luna Parker
There appears to be a clear trend with designers – they tend to never get too comfortable! On average a designer will change employment once every 2 years.
In the hope of identifying the key factors for which designers leave their employment and ways in which we can promote a good working environment for them, I conducted a survey across 52 designers who I have had the pleasure to work with.
Firstly, to many it may seem that a designer’s life is easy – hours spent in front of their shiny mac pro screens doodling new concepts for their company’s visual presence, but I assure you, this is far from true.
“Happiness in this field is essential!”
A designer is a hard working artist, and they live in a cycle of unending work, tight deadlines and plenty of overtime, always analysing colour patterns, keeping up to date on technologies and applications and thriving to meet their client’s (occasionally impossible) expectations. Yes, it often isn’t easy following their dreams and being a creative in a world dominated by business necessity and commercial considerations.
A striking top 67% of the designers surveyed have identified that bad company culture is the key factor by which designers decide to leave their employment. 65% of those surveyed, mentioned that there was too little communication between designers and management, including factors such as lack of feedback or too little respect for their work, factors which can be very demoralising and largely contribute to the designer’s desire to leave. 37% of designers have agreed that often times there is an immense workload heaped on their desk; and in 28% of cases, this workload is accompanied by unrealistic deadlines (and consequently: a frown of disrespect from the management). In 60% of the cases, designers felt that the management didn’t consider their work as a valuable contribution to their company’s business – moreso they see it as yet another necessary expanse to their annual revenue.
So what can employers do to improve the morale of their designers? As one of the respondents suggested – “Love them. Appreciate them. Respect them. Reward them”. An employer can vastly improve the conditions of a designer’s life by simply acknowledging their work as a crucial part to the business’ success. 46% designers have said it; it doesn’t take much to show gratitude and appreciation for their hard (and inspired) work.
One senior designer has stated: “The main thing employers should do if they wish to retain design staff is try to educate themselves a little in design. Understand why big brands put such store by it. Look up some famous designers and try to understand what makes their work so valuable. Attend a design conference or read an international design journal.” – Design is by all means is a form of art, it is something that a designer will usually put their soul and identity into. Unfortunately 29% of respondents lamented that the artistic component of what they do is completely disregarded and unacknowledged – this is hardly nourishment for the artist’s creative impulse. In the opinion of 60% of the designers surveyed, there is generally a cold commercial streak among the management, one that refused to acknowledge that design is an important factor to their company’s success (not surprisingly, this trend seems to be far less pronounced in creative agencies).
“Walk a day in another man’s shoes”
If employers do take a little time to educate themselves on what it takes to be a good designer, and the time and effort that goes into studies and keeping up to date with the ever changing technologies, it might provide an insight into the quality and value of the designer’s work.
“Companies often reward employees with a bonus after a good month or year of work; bonuses are sadly lacking in the design sector.”
51% of designers surveyed state that they feel their work is not adequately rewarded. Too little pay for too many hours of work, or lack of any sort of bonus / reward was the major factor among the 51% of respondents who had become disillusioned by their companies and had eventually resolved to move on. Designers who had developed the winning concepts with their clients or spent days and nights working to perfect their company’s visual presence were, in the opinion of 25% of cases surveyed, rewarded with more workload and less holidays.
While 45% of designers mentioned that it might not be the smartest option to move from one job to another, based purely on salary – in 27% cases the reward and package a company offered them was indeed the major factor when making the decision to move. 32% designers have mentioned that upgrading a company’s package doesn’t always have to go through a financial route, opportunities to grow and learn are equally valuable.
Another important factor, identified by 40% of participants, is the stagnating nature of their work. As mentioned before, designers are artists, always seeking to push on and be challenged. Out of 52 of the designers surveyed, 21 have answered that lack of variety in their workplace has led them to contemplate quitting their job. Designers become embittered by their role when they carry out a narrow field of repetitive tasks for years at a time; they tend to grow bored and lose interest when stuck in a role which doesn’t allow them to be creative or original.
“Employers have to keep designers motivated, not just by remuneration, but also by challenging them and keeping them interested.”
It is important for employers to note, that by assigning a variety of projects and design challenges to designers, they will keep them producing optimal and interesting work, and this will be to the advantage of both the designer and the company.
32% of designers admitted that lack of any upskilling opportunities within their companies was a primary factor in their decision to leave. Offering designers a route to grow and upgrade their abilities is a fantastic way to motivate designers. If your company/agency has multiple design departments, offer your designers the opportunity to collaborate with other disciplines, and upskill their abilities and migrate into other areas of design.
Time and deadlines:
The creative impulse needs space and time. 28% of designers surveyed stated that unrealistic deadlines drastically diminish the quality of their output. Not only that, but it can be very demotivating when finance and marketing colleagues are clocking off at 5.30 while the designer is required to work late to get a project over the line.
According to many of those surveyed, a great idea for companies would be to devote, say, at least 10% of working hours to brainstorming ideas and promoting research and inspiration. Designers are unanimous in the belief that this would demonstrate respect at management level for the process and such an initiative would drive them to work harder, better and faster.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs
Designers work long and hard to deliver the best visual solutions to their clients, and they should be valued and rewarded. So if you happen to employ a designer, why not get them a coffee today and say simply say… “Good job”