75

Designers who are 40 plus, how are you...

4 months ago from , Designer

... approaching your next career steps to make it all the way to the retirement age (not as a goal, but as an age marker)? Especially if you are currently not in the director/leadership role working in the agency, in-house, or in-house tech. Are you actively trying to get into the management roles (not just a project lead, but leading a larger team of people or business) or are feeling good continuing on the IC (individual contributor) level? Have you felt the push to advance up the corporate ladder?

68 comments

  • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, 4 months ago

    I'm 40 next year, I've been contracting for most of my career and I don't have a pension.

    I'm not thinking about retirement at all, I don't really have much of a desire to retire, it's not one of my life goals.

    I'm a design practitioner, mainly UX but do UI and visual as well. I don't aspire to manage or lead particularly, I like what I do and I just want to continue doing it and getting better and better at it.

    I don't have a plan.

    47 points
    • Mike Wilson, 4 months ago

      I'm amazed this is the top comment and I hope all of you live in countries with robust government safety nets or have large inheritances from your parents.

      If you don't have a planned exit strategy from design (ie. either enough savings/investments/government support to retire...or eventual career pivot to McDonalds), you're going to have a bad time.

      I also like what I do and want to continue doing it, but I know I'm kidding myself to think both A) I'll be able to keep up with the latest technology forever and B) companies are going to want to hire a 75 year-old geriatric to design whatever machine-learning 3D AR/VR interfaces we're using 30 years from now.

      2 points
      • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, 4 months ago

        To clarify, I'm not proud of the fact that I don't have a plan, I was just being honest about my situation. I should really have a savings plan in place, maybe my sons will take care of me :-)

        I am in a position of some privilege, I live in a country that has a public healthcare service, but I probably don't stand to inherit much from my parents and I doubt state pensions will exist when I am that age.

        I think it's a bit much to state that people will have a bad time without an "exit strategy". Obviously we will need to be flexible to change as the industry changes, who knows what skill set will be the most valuable over the next few decades.

        But it seems like you're saying: older people aren't suited to work in our industry. Which I don't agree with, there are fewer older people in the tech industry right now, because it has risen up quite quickly, but as our workforce ages, will will find ourselves with a higher proportion of older workers, which I'm hoping have a positive effect on what we create.

        4 points
        • Mike Wilson, 4 months ago

          there are fewer older people in the tech industry right now, because it has risen up quite quickly

          So you think the progression of technology is going to start slowing down? That goes contrary to everything we know.

          People have this false idea that the world pre-internet and post-internet was some big dividing line...and it was just a bunch of "lazy" people who couldn't make the jump. But the tech industry has always been there, making progress and steadily changing every year (in design think of the changes from metal typesetting > phototypesetting > desktop publishing > websites > skeuomorphic interactive web apps > flat design mobile apps > ??). And the rate at which this is happening is increasing.

          It's cognitive dissonance to think, "Sure, I don't work with any old people now, but everything will be different when I'm older! I'm special and will be able to keep up, unlike my lazy grandparents!"

          Personally, I'm investing a large portion of my income as I don't want to place of the burden of supporting me on my children or other people. In the tech industry, we make more money than most people do. My feeling is, to not save and invest given that, is foolish.

          -3 points
        • Nick ClementNick Clement, 4 months ago

          Man, one should really be maximising benefits from contracting as much as possible. To not use tax breaks as part of a pension is lunacy.

          1 point
    • Mike StevensonMike Stevenson, 4 months ago

      Could you share any tips to keep your body from giving you problems? I'm only 33 but often have a hard time sitting and working at my desk all day, which obviously is not optimal.

      I do have back issues, but I go to physical therapy, work out as often as possible, try and sleep well, and constantly stretch. I still have pains from sitting/standing for too long and I'd like that to, well, not. It really robs me of my ability to focus and be as meticulous as I'd like when designing.

      1 point
      • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, 4 months ago

        Hi Mike, I'm afraid I've been lucky enough not to have any physical problems with sitting and working, so I can't give you any advice there. I'm sure you've considered anything I could think of.

        0 points
      • Jeff CouturierJeff Couturier, 4 months ago

        Get up and move at least once an hour. It's cliche, but that's what it takes. Take a walk, even if it's a short one around the building or in the building. Find ways to work in places that are not your desk. Hopefully you have a laptop and can take it to a another corner of the office, or to a table you can stand at. This is immensely helpful, even if it's only for 30 minutes a day. Not only is it good for your overall health, those changes of scenery are great for your creative flow.

        Beyond all of that, get a dog if you can. Having a dog means I walk a minimum of 2 miles a day, which is great for both your physical and mental health.

        2 points
        • Ryan Hicks, 4 months ago

          100% to all of this.

          Also if you can convince your company to invest in a stand desk. If you can't do that then invest in one on your own. Get one of those things that you put on your desk that converts it to a stand desk. Stand up, walk around every now and then... essentially what @Jeff Courturier mentioned.

          0 points
      • David Tierney, 4 months ago

        I'm 52. I have had trouble sitting for long hours at at time and move around, do yoga, work out, etc. to keep fit. However recently I started in on two things that have helped and I wanted to share specifically. One is called Foundation Training. Search it online and you can find it. The other is a book titled, "8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back". Both are helpful and I recommend them.

        0 points
  • Noah StokesNoah Stokes, 4 months ago

    Great question, and excellent to see the convo happening here. I'm in my 40's now and started thinking about this around age 35. My theory was that as I got older there would be younger designers willing to work longer hours for half my rate, so I knew that I needed to pivot myself to a position of leadership in one form or another in order to continue to provide value to my employer.

    Leadership could be management, but it could also be a very high level IC role. This is an important distinction to make. A strong Principle Designer or Staff Designer or whatever you want to call it is invaluable to a company—so an IC path still has possibilities for leadership.

    I noticed things in myself that made me lean more toward management. I enjoy the people aspect for sure, but more importantly I noticed that I cared less about the creative work that I was producing and became more interested in helping others produce incredible work. Since taking the management track, I've worked with designers who can design circles around me, and I love it. I love being able to help them produce their best work.

    As for retirement, I'm doing the usual 401k, savings, stocks, investments, etc. I've worked out a spreadsheet with my best guess for how much I'll need to live on per month when I'm retired, and I'm working backwards from there. Here is an example of that type of spreadsheet (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1991xCRgJWznq6WAUt6j-va4xXKZ2Q2y1mGO4vTZXELI/edit#gid=1319135868)

    I will also add that because our industry is so young, I do feel it is important for folks with more years under their belt to remain in this industry to raise up the next generation through mentorship, education and leadership.

    24 points
    • Waldy Przybyslawski, 4 months ago

      Great response - falls in line with a lot of my own thinking at the moment (I'm 34 and starting to think about this topic a lot). Pardon my ignorance though - what does "IC" stand for in your second paragraph? Individual contributor?

      1 point
      • Noah StokesNoah Stokes, 3 months ago

        IC = Individual Contributor; basically someone who stays on the creation/production path as opposed to the management path.

        0 points
  • Paul Bunyar, 4 months ago

    I'm a late bloomer. I didn't start until I was 30. Now I'm 58. About 22 years of my career have been working on two different in-house teams. Good stuff. Good hours. Good benefits.

    I am presently trying to add more and more digital skills to my tool set. I'm just getting started — in html, css, UI, animation.

    I hope to move from where I am now to either another in-house position or with a firm that can use my abilities in collaboration with others. I expect this could mean a pay cut since I am presently a novice in some areas.

    Management? That's not for me. I really like working with others and for others. But my skills are better suited to actually designing rather than directing/promoting/growing a team.

    As I get older, if I'm unable to find a permanent position, I expect I will do contract/temp work through an agency of some sort.

    I'm on my second marriage. I told my present wife before we got married that graphic designers don't retire, they just do fewer projects. I plan to stick to that. So…

    Exit strategy: death. [But I believe I still have several years to run.]

    18 points
  • Tyson KingsburyTyson Kingsbury, 4 months ago

    46, Creative Director at a Software Co. Still very much hands on, but work with a variety of teams here at the office. Most of the time I handle the creative work re. the marketing of our software, but we also have a thriving consulting wing at the company, and I work on consulting projects several times a year. Currently working on a big one, web-app...lots of UI/UX work etc..

    I think one of the big things that have helped me over the years is having a WIDE and varied background... print, web, UI, UX, branding, etc... I've been working since the 90's so I've had a lot of experience, which has been a big help over the years. Had the chance to try a lot of different things.

    As far as exit plans, I think the management track is probably the best bet, as well as keeping investments/savings in mind. My wife is a high school teacher, which in Ontario Canada means you have a unbelievable pension...so that's going to help us both in the future. Also, assets, like a house etc... we bought ours 17 years ago for about 250k....it's now worth close to 900+k.... and we're not moving any time soon...so thats an investment that certainly paid off... we're also looking at getting an investment property in the next year or two as well... when we retire (which is a ways off yet, we can use the rental property for a nice small regular income, and both my wife and I also have 'side hustles' so to speak...I do a bit of freelance design work, and my wife is also a fitness instructor so we have that going as well...

    13 points
  • Craig RozynskiCraig Rozynski, 4 months ago

    I'm 40 and have worked remotely since 2007. I delegate out a bit of the work but otherwise I'm very hands-on.

    I've been kicking around the idea that I now have 10 years to conceive and execute an escape plan. Not entirely sure what that is yet, but it will probably be a mix of delegation, investment, and focusing more on income-producing assets (design asset sales, apps, and physical products).

    I think at this age it would be shortsighted not to start thinking about how your career ends. Gotta have a plan.

    12 points
  • Yigit PinarbasiYigit Pinarbasi, 4 months ago

    Well, I'm 30 and I've started to think what's my goal for the near future (40 is not that far away). I'm currently working as a UI/Product Designer for an agency after 2 years of freelancing. I can see some younger lads with 3-4 years of experience are working as design leads and it's kinda hard to find a role for me in an agency with 9 years of experience and a good portfolio. I can clearly say that I have a nice one because I had the chance to work with the biggest companies in my country to every designer admits to having those projects in their CVs.

    I'm thinking to join a mid-level startup as a remote or full-time design lead and help to grow, grow with together for years and share my experience with my colleagues. Let's see how it goes for me.

    6 points
  • Ivan FrantarIvan Frantar, 4 months ago

    I'm 41 and I work as a Lead Product Designer.

    Not surely settled on an exit plan or strategy for the next 20 years. Many things could change and will change till then.

    What I’m sure about is about investing in the craft of design and the industries I work on to become a better designer day by day. Observing everything around me that might help me take next steps to feed this interest. Ultimately, I’m making moves on investments and plans for a more solo-preneur move for now while trying to find ways to spend as much time as possible with my family. We'll see where it leads :)

    5 points
  • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, 4 months ago

    you know at 40 it is not time to think about retirement yet. At least where I am from, I expect having to work until 70 to get minimum pension. I personally don't think about pension at all, I'm assuming that I'll have to work until my last day alive.

    5 points
    • Craig RozynskiCraig Rozynski, 4 months ago

      "If hard work made us rich, donkeys would be draped in gold"

      6 points
      • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, 4 months ago

        I know what you are trying to say and I am not glorifying work by any means. I think it is very different depending on where you live. I live in Austria and my mom has to work until 63. Seeing that pensions are getting smaller and smaller, I'm estimating that I'll have to work until I am 70.

        It's probably different in the US, where whatever system is there is barely functioning. Or in Germany, where people who have worked their entire life have to survive on a minimum wage pension. I don't know how retirement works in Japan.

        0 points
        • Craig RozynskiCraig Rozynski, 4 months ago

          Thomas, seriously, fuck the pension. The thought of it terrifies me and drives me in equal measure. We don't have to punch the clock until our teeth are falling out. It just requires a bit of strategic thinking and tenacity. Hustle!

          0 points
          • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, 4 months ago

            I can totally understand what you are saying. That is also what I mean by saying that I don't expect to get a pension anyway, so I have to make sure that whatever I am doing later in life is still doable for me.

            0 points
    • Mike Wilson, 4 months ago

      How many 65 year old designers have you worked with? Is it more common to see older people in the design industry where you’re from?

      Stuff like this scares the hell out of me. In the US, I’ve worked at maybe 20+ big offices (between NYC/SF/Chicago) with large sample sizes of people and have seen maybe 3 people over the age of 50 working as a designer.

      Hell, the managers I’ve worked under have mostly been under 45.

      1 point
      • Steve O'ConnorSteve O'Connor, 4 months ago

        Paula Scher, Milton Glaser, Dave Clark, Michael Johnson - practising older designers are rarer, but still around. With an ageing population and poorer pension plans, I expect to see a lot more around in the future.

        There is a perception that the most creative ideas come from younger creatives, but that isn't borne out when you really look at what goes on in agencies. It's a combination of the older and younger minds that really helps.

        Many designers also go off into other fields, or move into management, as a natural progression.

        I'm over the 40 mark, but I see myself continuing to practice. A lot of the time I'm the one with a better eye on the latest trends, which I find odd! A young mind maybe ;) I would be very interested in doing less hands-on and more management though…

        1 point
        • Philip A, 4 months ago

          Obviously a different industry but Hayao Miyazaki is a great example of a "creative" person whose age has done nothing but increase their ability to create new things.

          2 points
      • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, 4 months ago

        Stuff like this scares the hell out of me. In the US, I’ve worked at maybe 20+ big offices (between NYC/SF/Chicago) with large sample sizes of people and have seen maybe 3 people over the age of 50 working as a designer.

        I think it's different in the US, where people seem to think differently about retirement. I live in Austria and the social system regulates retirement, unless I set up an additional private retirement plan. But from the moment I started working, I get yearly letters about my contribution to my own pension. And in that system, I will have to work into my late 60s. Most people in my generation do not assume that they'll get a Pension anyway, that includes me.

        0 points
      • Ryan Hicks, 4 months ago

        You haven't seen any because the people just now nearing that age were the first designers. You have to keep in mind the "design" career in context to what is referred to as design now—like ux and ui design—hasn't been around that long. You should start to see older designers in the industry in the next handful of years. I'd like to think in the next 10 years.

        0 points
        • Mike Wilson, 4 months ago

          You haven't seen any because the people just now nearing that age were the first designers.

          Visual software interfaces have been common since the 80s.

          Also what makes you think the design industry as it is now—UX and UI design as you say—will continue to exist in its current form in 10 years? If design has completely changed in the last decade, why do you think the changes are suddenly going to stop?

          I think we’re all fooling ourselves as to the real reason there’s no old people in design (whether it’s in tech OR old school editorial design at magazines). The truth is, ageism is a far bigger problem than we want to admit, and keeping up with trends as you age is a harder task than we think.

          0 points
      • Nick ClementNick Clement, 4 months ago

        Thing is you will, the market has never been so saturated. Previously it was never a long term career option but these days it is until ageism truly kicks in. You’re over the hill in ad land by 35. Design and business values experience mostly.

        0 points
    • Brijean Brennan, 4 months ago

      40 is absolutely when you should be thinking about retirement hence not having to work until the day you die. (jeez I'm starting to sound like my mom, but dammit she was right!)

      3 points
  • Joseph BarrientosJoseph Barrientos, 4 months ago

    so glad you asked this. I'm a senior designer at 26 with 6+ years in the industry already, and I find myself thinking often if this is the role i'm going to be doing for the next 20, or even 10 years. Its nice to see the more experienced designers take and plans thru it all, I love what I do but idk if I love it enough for 40 more years of it

    5 points
  • iterati designiterati design, 4 months ago

    Excellent post and comments, thank you all!

    4 points
  • Gary Simon, 4 months ago

    I'm just about 36 and some of you may know me from my YouTube chan 'DesignCourse'. I've been doing this stuff since the mid to late 90's. I started out as freelance design/dev, but then got into the teaching/instructing gig 10 years ago.

    Right now, my only plan is to keep growing my personal brand as much as possible by churning out more content that people like. If I play my cards right and continue to grow, I will be able to retire on my own terms. But I love this stuff, I don't see myself ever wanting to quit permanently. Maybe slow it down a bit, but yeah.

    3 points
  • Johanna Weintraub , 4 months ago

    I’m really happy to see this thread as it’s something I think about a lot. I was career switcher and didn’t get into the field until my mid-30s. I’m currently working as a senior designer and still have a lot of enthusiasm and drive. Most of my peers are 10-15 years younger than me, but I find that my past years of experience in another field has given me the confidence and ability to move up quicker than usual. I’m currently considering a management position but am torn because I love designing and don’t want to lose touch with the craft. At the same time, I think I’d be a great manager and am wondering if it’s a more sustainable path at my age.

    As far as retirement planning, I’m saving everything I can and have done some real estate investing as well. Hoping to get to the point where working is optional by 50.

    2 points
  • Jan SemlerJan Semler, 4 months ago

    I am 39 years old and working since i was 14 years old in the design industry have seen a lot and can do nearlly everything from print products, packaging (studied packaging design), animations, videos and even music. I produced music since i was 14 as well as hip hop was turning over here in germany, graffiti was also a huge part. From the beginning i was programming flash websites and did animations in flash and shortly after that i created first music videos in Premiere and After Effects. Since 2000 i created websites and brochures for clients while studying. Since 2007 i was totally in Interfaces till this day and have written a 500 pages book about App Design.

    Currently i am in 3D. Since 2010 i was using cinema 4D here and there but will digg deeper when my new computer is there since 3D stuff relies heavy on hardware and will try to have a solid step into unity. I think that AR and VR is the next evolution in the digital industry and therefore i want to help creating 3D contents and Videos as well as interfaces for it. My approach is to learn new stuff till my retirement. But i guess i will be never in retirement because i love to be creative with all sort of stuff. Currently i am working on an music album, because i stopped making music by 2007 and was going back doing it in 2017 and want to try to establish myself as an musician and artist in the future. My Vision is to create nice videos and music while having a decent living with it and creating designs for high profile clients here and there.

    As a Note i am a freelancer and really happy with it. I couldn‘t imagine working on the same place and doing the same stuff i did like brochures or other print stuff everyday in hope of getting a better step on the ladder.

    I have also a tip for you which my help you understand how designs jobs are may be in the future, just read the book: Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro, you will find it here, when i was Reading it it was an eye opener for me, here we go: Design is a Job

    2 points
  • Alex Hazel, 4 months ago

    I'm 36. Been an in-house designer for 13 years. I'm good. No push to go into management. I am better served as a Senior UI designer, building our design system, and mentoring people. And unless I leave my company (or change the culture here) there is no design management where I work so I couldn't go any higher if I wanted unless I wanted to leave design entirely.

    2 points
  • Andrew C, 4 months ago

    I became a better designer when I got in to management and then upper management. I was able to understand systems thinking with regards to our org structure, but also how significantly a business model and culture permeates a product (Conway’s law is extremely accurate).

    I’m not rendering pixels so much anymore (except for a few low key side hustles) but I’m a much more capable designer because I’m able to ask wiser questions.

    2 points
    • andreis ., 4 months ago

      Thank you for sharing, this is a great angle to look at it. Can you recall any specific turning moments when started moving from design to strategy/management?

      0 points
  • Steve SchoeffelSteve Schoeffel, 3 months ago

    I think one thing that’s somewhat missing from this thread is the merits of disconnecting your input from your output (i.e. working on something with leverage). One path for designers is to find something that scales. A downside to agency jobs or IC/manager roles is that you are renting your time. You work “X” number of hours a week, you get paid “X” number of dollars. There’s a quote from Warren Buffett:

    “If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.” — Warren Buffet.

    I love design. I literally get excited to start a new work week. But I also don’t want to have to be putting in the same number of hours when I’m in my 60s or whatever. One way to give yourself more options is to work on something where you are not paid based on the amount of time you work. To do this, you basically need to have an ownership stake in something. And it can really be anything. You can start a company. Or maybe you create a digital class that you sell. Or you create digital assets. Or even t-shirts. Find something where you have upside that is not tied to your hours worked. Get paid for your ideas, not your time.

    I’m 32. I’ve designed in an agency setting and at a SaaS company. I co-founded a company last year in part because of these reasons (leverage, higher upside, etc.).

    Everyone has their own path due to different priorities, giftings, interests, etc. Some people may be genuinely most fulfilled by designing or managing till a very old age and I think that’s 100% cool. But I’m also picking up on some feelings of discouragement that retirement, even if it’s desired, won’t be a viable option. Or that the safest path is to shift toward management. That’s where I think these ideas of leverage can be helpful because they can allow more freedom to choose for yourself, not out of necessity.

    Some inspiring threads related to this:

    2 points
  • Marcin BauerMarcin Bauer, 4 months ago

    I'm also interested in this topic, but I think that in every job you have to work on getting better, or you'll be out of it. In IT it's especially clearly felt, because it runs at an alarmingly fast pace, and we sometimes seem obsolete or not good enough (imposter syndrome). I just recently was on an conference in Kiev, and DON NORMAN was there. He basically said that designers (problem solvers) need to climb the corporate ladder be the problem solvers, because the current C-suite leaders think mostly about money and short term solutions.

    2 points
    • Jennifer Nguyen, 3 months ago

      I've been saying this for years! When people ask "Do designers need to know how to code?", my response is always "you're asking the wrong question. We should be asking if designers should understand business?".

      1 point
  • Timothy McKennaTimothy McKenna, 4 months ago

    I'm 34 and I have been working in the industry for 13 years at this point. I currently am a design director for a tech company that works solely for state government. I have had a pretty varied career from practitioner to manager in a variety of fields from publishing, academia, healthcare, technology, financial services, and marketing. For me, I want to continue to move up in management roles and take on more strategic/business/leadership functions as I feel that I have the most impact. I'll be honest, I am not the greatest designer...but I feel like I am pretty good at working with designers. I feel best working with and learning from my team...and I try to give them all of the support, resources, and confidence to do the best work they can.

    While I'd love to do this forever...I'm building a safety net retirement plan that hopefully ease a lot of financial considerations in the future. I have a 401k and a Roth IRA that I have been contributing to since I started (parents raised me to always save as a mantra that a company pays you, from that paycheck...pay yourself first, then do your bills, etc). I have bought a house a few years ago and the value continues to raise. So financially, if I wanted to, I could retire at 67 pretty comfortably if all things currently stay the same with savings and whatnot.

    Ideally, I'd like to transition into a consultant later in my career like Jose Coronado. But who knows? Half of the fun for me is seeing what opportunities arise for me to learn and grow and marry that knowledge back to design.

    2 points
    • andreis ., 4 months ago

      Thank you for sharing! Would you say that working for the government is a safer choice when it comes to ageism/layoffs?

      0 points
      • Timothy McKennaTimothy McKenna, 4 months ago

        I don't actually work for government (meaning I am not a government employee). I work for a company that only does work for state government, so it's a private company with a singular client if you will...but I can speak layoffs/ageism with my counterparts in government.

        If you are unionized, it's harder to get laid off. If you aren't part of a union, you're just as likely to get laid off when government agency budgets are slashed.

        Ageism though...government is slow...and when you have been part of the state government and kept your nose clean, you can stick around for 30 some years, collect your state pension. I have found that ageism actually affects more younger employees. Government can be entrenched, bureaucratic, and monolithic...so if you are young with aspirations of making huge strides....you're going to have a bad time. Older employees don't want to change anything as it could affect their pension and younger employees tend to get pushed out...so when the older employees retire..there is a huge vacuum where skilled people are needed, but not many want to work because of the culture/legacy. This has been my typical observation, but each state and state agency is different.

        1 point
  • Brijean Brennan, 4 months ago

    Most of the comments on this thread ignite some of my fears and thoughts I have on retirement. "Haven't thought about retirement", "I'll probably work until I'm 70" Holy crap! I'm 38 and contribute a significant amount of my paycheck to retirement. I want to retire as early as possible. I mean work is great but not working sounds better. I work at a small agency now and I don't want to go into management. I think about this a lot and honestly part of my wanting to retire early is I can't imaging being a designer when I'm old. I remember back at art school having some old professors. One of them constantly told us about his ulcer. The other brought in a packaging proof (made in quark express ha!) that he screwed up, got the sides mixed up. The lesson: "kids, mistakes happen" but honestly I think it was because learning quark was such a stretch for him.

    Anyway, unfortunately our industry is considered a young industry. If you're not a management type person there aren't tons of options, or maybe its just a matter of not letting the association or the word young to only mean innovative & fresh get to you and just keep chugging along the best you can.

    1 point
    • Steve O'ConnorSteve O'Connor, 4 months ago

      It's strange to me that design is considered "a young industry" in terms of it all being people in their early to mid-twenties. The majority of designers I meet are over 30. Is it a cultural difference I wonder? I'm in the UK, not the USA.

      1 point
  • Stuart McCoyStuart McCoy, 4 months ago

    I'm definitely at this stage in my career and as adrift as I'm guessing many people are. I've been a designer and developer my entire career and worked in mostly small agencies that don't have much beyond a senior level designer or developer. I've been looking for a senior designer position at a larger agency or in-house corporate design team where advancement beyond that position is possible. I think my years of experience has hindered me somewhat because I spent my career designing and not leading teams; too much for a senior design role, no experience for an art director role.

    1 point
  • Tom WoodTom Wood, 4 months ago

    Where do all the old designers go?

    I think realistically you need to think about management.

    I get it. We don't become designers so that we can manage other people, or so we can watch younger people do cool stuff when we're spending most of our days in meetings and emails.. but it's the most realistic path for sustainability and success.

    As you get older you have to understand what you can offer. Younger designers can offer speed, enthusiasm and "new" ideas for low wages. What can you offer? The answer is probably experience and wisdom.

    So how best can you impart that experience? And how can you remain involved? I think a move to a strategic position is the best advice. Work towards becoming a Creative Director, or even a Managing Director.

    There are few designers in their 60s who are making enough money to pay their mortgages, go on holidays, etc, who sit in their home offices making great logos or websites. Those are a rarity. But if that's what you want, you should probably make a plan and reaaaaaally work towards it.

    Edit: Just wanted to clear up that I don't think being older means being slower or less enthusiastic. My emphasis is on the low-wages. As you get older you generally need higher wages – these become harder for a company to justify unless you are offering something more than "just" design IMO.

    1 point
    • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, 4 months ago

      I respectfully disagree. I think this is a depressing generalisation, it sounds like you are saying older designers are unenthusiastic and slow. Which I have not found to be the case. Whilst I agree experience and wisdom are the key attributes of older designers, they can be put to good use in practicing design, not just managing others.

      6 points
    • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, 4 months ago

      I’m 43 and faster than I have ever been. :D

      11 points
      • Steven CavinsSteven Cavins, 4 months ago

        LOL, Marc, I think you're the rarity he's speaking of.

        2 points
        • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, 4 months ago

          I look forward to being in my 60s and going on holidays.

          (I think some of the original points about wages are fair though.)

          0 points
      • Nils Trieu, 4 months ago

        You are my idol!

        1 point
      • Danny Lewandowski, 4 months ago

        Agree! Every "young" designer I've worked with is slow and uninspired. They don't put in the effort to learn their craft and get better. I could probably out-pace a dozen of them and I'm also 43. Plus I do front-end coding and most of them can't even spell HTML.

        0 points
    • Philip A, 4 months ago

      I disagree (but upvoted because you made a worthwhile contribution, that's how it works).

      Senior/Experienced programmers are a specific type of programmer that you can hire for. You get much more experience and knowledge compared to a young graduate programmer, but they cost more. It's a tradeoff.

      I think the same will be true of the design industry (if it isn't already). Knowing how much I've grown in the last 5 years (let alone the next 10-20 years) points me to the fact that "Senior Designers" are very plausible, just as "Senior Programmers" are.

      0 points
  • Marcus H, 4 months ago

    I think all you guys are in a better position than me because I only started designing 5 years ago and I'm 38. At the moment I mostly do UI design but I'm starting to learn more about UX and I think that'll be better for the long term. I can't see myself doing UI forever as styles and trends will change and I probably won't be able to keep up with the young whippersnappers. Also, I've only ever worked remotely since the starting so maybe it's too late for me but I'd definitely like to get a full-time job and work alongside people instead of on my own at home.

    1 point
  • Sara H, 4 months ago

    I'm 26 and I think about this all the time. I work as an in-house designer for a company in the HR space. We frequently conduct user interviews with people searching for jobs and we frequently hear about acts of ageism. This is not specific to design, but it is especially prevalent in the tech industry. As the world becomes more digital, I feel like this will only get more pronounced. It is heartbreaking and it would be foolish to think we're immune to it.

    Personally, I don't see myself ever retiring with a capital R because work is fulfilling for me and it keeps my brain active. That being said, I want to be in a place where I feel financially secure so as to not panic if something goes awry. I expect to have fewer work opportunities as I get older so I anticipate needing to find ways to support and fulfill myself.

    1 point
  • Mauricio Alanis, 4 months ago

    I'm 52, and last month I have just lost my job as Marketing Director / Art Director at a local company. My work has been appreciated, but company structure is going through major changes. I run my own design small agency, since 1992. I don't have yet as many contracts as I want / need.

    The biggest challenge is to take the correct next step. Should I go after one big company - leading position, or should I focus on my small company?

    Do big companies hire someone my age? Does my experience count in that cases?

    I'm based in Mexico, where retirement age is 10 years above US standards...

    Please share your thoughts

    1 point
  • Karl Mochel, 4 months ago

    I'm 52, an IC, a UX Architect. I too think about what my career/jobs will look like going forward. I've thought about being a manager but to date have not been interested in hiring, firing, budgets and performance reviews. Friends who have become managers have done so in situations where they felt they could have greater impact.

    I agree that some amount of design is about trends and younger designers are more easily tuned into them. However, I have found that junior designers often lack breadth and so when applying their learning tend to be tactically generative and not strategically generative. So, the value that I show my leadership and prospective employers is how my experience is a strategic asset in understanding or finding solutions.

    I suggest looking at this research to see if you are showing signs of growth in these areas: Comparing Cognitive Efficiency of Experienced and Inexperienced Designers in Conceptual Design Processes. (Sage Journals - Paid Site)

    One thing I am thinking about is consulting. When I work with someone I respect, especially someone in my age bracket, I make sure to discuss keeping in contact in the future so that we start building our networks.

    1 point
  • Danny Lewandowski, 4 months ago

    This is a great question and I've been struggling with it the recent past. I'm 43, turning 44 in June.

    I've always worked in agencies at about the Sr. Art Director level, just under the separation of design and business. What I mean by that is what I've observed is that as you get higher up the ladder that farther away from the design process you get. I've seen it time and time again. People work themselves to the bone to impress the higher-ups and then are cheered for getting a promotion. Once they get into their new role they do nothing but go to countless meetings, deal with account people, schedules, budgeting, resources, allocations, yada yada yada yada. You slowly see the spark get drained from their eyes and they become a shell of their former selves.

    How's that promotion feeling now you worked so hard for?

    I've always been a "doer", not a "talker". At some point, you have to stop talking in circles and just get down to work and actually design something. That's been my struggle with the whole "design thinking" movement...just shut and make something! This has also worked against me in reviews.

    Personally, I have no interest in moving up to management. You're constantly shit on, never design anything and so far removed from the process. I want to keep my hands dirty.

    The drawback is that it limits my income but that's where side gigs come in.

    Now I have a 401k, am working on an internal team "client-side", have great health care, an awesome boss and team and work from home. Couldn't be happier at the moment. The work isn't glamorous but I could care less about that now.

    My goals are to improve where I can, learn new skills and be the best designer I can. I'm planning for retirement but don't think I could ever stop working.

    My 2 cents for what it's worth.

    1 point
  • Nadia SOTNIKOVA, 3 months ago

    I'm not 40+, I'm a contract UX designer in my 20s, but I'd like to understand why this is a problem, so I can think ahead. Here are my questions to all of the experienced designers here:

    1) Is getting into leadership more beneficial than being a great experienced designer creating outstanding products? I feel like I'd love to keep designing my whole life. Maybe it'll change.

    2) My current plan is saving for my own (hopefully early) retirement. Currently at 26 I only have 2 years worth of living expenses saved, but hopefully by around 45 or so I'll have enough savings and investments to not worry about any work at all, even though I think I'll keep creating after that too.

    Do most of people rely on the government for a pension, and why?

    Thank you! I really hope to gain more insight into what's waiting for me in the future. :D

    For the context, I'm a soon-to-be citizen of Poland, so I'm in EU, and I work remotely for US/Canada/Western Europe.

    1 point
  • Siniša ŠašićSiniša Šašić, 3 months ago

    The problem with design is that a lot of it still relies on trends rather than on the timeless principles of design, which casues the entire industry to think they need to revolve around “youth” energy (read: fashion). However, I believe there is a huge transformation in the world of design going on where the “celebrity” designers will no longer be important, but rather the TEAMS of designers will. Therefore, I honestly don’t believe any old designer should worth less than a young one, on the contrary. Of course, it will still depend on how you present yourself, how well you can communicate your values as a designer (not just shipping off your eye candy portfolio and hope for the best). Design role is changing, and the fusion with business, strategy, systems thinking is already in progress.

    Having that in mind, I believe planning a pension shouldn’t be THAT much different than any other retirement planning, excluding maybe the state/institution jobs which are understandably more stable and predictable.

    Also, bear in mind that USA and e.g. Norway where I currently live are nowhere near in comparison when it comes to retirement. Nordics have a completely different model of public services that is much more generous than North America’s (yeah, you pay shit ton of taxes, but then you don’t think about retirement that much).

    I’m Senior UX Designer / Digital Product Designer, age 39 now, been doing it since 2004.

    0 points