Is the future of Design tiered?

Should designers code? Should they understand business strategy? Should they only design in Process Magenta on alternate Wednesdays? These are all valid questions (well, all but one of them), but they all drive me to ask a bigger question: Is the future of design tiered?

In a conversation with Martin Jewiss, of The Familiar, earlier this week, I posited the thought that perhaps we’re working towards a stage where there are various levels of designer, based on how high-level or low-level their skill sets are.

How would this look?

In many ways, it wouldn’t look much different to how things are today. But, there would be an easier justification for the various designer job titles that keep popping up as people try to find a niche and show how they’re different.

In this new way of working, you would have Designers who look at things from different levels, the same way you do in business, and similar to the levels of abstraction we see in computing languages.

At a high level, you would have overall Designers. These people understand the design process and various strategic elements that allow them to look at a problem from a Generalised view. These people help see the parallel problems and the perpendicular routes to solve them. They, for example, may not know the best way to lay out a grid for graphic design.

As you go down the tiers, the skills required are more low-level. They’re closer to the bone. Doing the work that makes the final result happen. Here, you find your UX and UI designers, your graphic designers, your fashion and interior designers.

They know their craft. They practice it everyday. They’re the ones laying out an expertly-managed Grid. They’re the ones who know which material is best for each situation. And they’re respected, compensated, and treated as such.

For those of us in the UK, this would be similar to how the NHS works. You’d have a high-level designer who’s able to triage, educate and communicate. And then you’ll have specialists who input and create.

What do you think?


Written on the train to work on my iPhone using Working Copy.