I’m A Design Student—What Happens Next?

I was interviewed along with my VCFA co-conspirator Silas Munro, pal Mitch Goldstein, and four other design educators about life for students after the current pandemic on the AIGA Eye on Design blog.

You can read it here: https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/im-a-design-student-what-happens-next/

Some of the interview questions that were not published, but for which I think I provided snappy answers:

Are there specific design jobs or design skills that are more likely to get through this crisis without much disruption, and others that will be hit harder?

Hands down, education. I have found that most realms of design are incredibly fickle during an economic downturn, and teaching is something that has relative stability. Sure, it is not glamorous, but you get to go into interesting, speculative situations every day and talk to really nice people who are smart.

For over a decade, there has been a “brain drain” on graduate education because the technology sector just paid *so much* more, so many folks who would have taught instead turned to tech. I imagine that the current crisis will make technology companies ask their workers to do much more for much less money. (That would be the rational business move.) I think that right now is really the time to get into design education if you are so inclined. If you have a terminal degree, you can teach while still doing your ‘fabulous’ tech work.

When this is all over, how do you think this will change the structure of the design industry or design education?

I feel like this is all a giant dry run for the future. This is a time in which companies and clients are seeing how much labor they can extract from people working from home so they don’t have to pay for real estate, pay annual salaries, pay benefits, or generally do the things that Fordist companies did for their employees once upon a time. I can literally envision in my mind hundreds of HR people on the high administration level in tech companies just rubbing their mitts right now in anticipation of the future and what this very moment means for tomorrow’s shareholder profits.

What can we learn from this experience of working and teaching remotely that will help to make our jobs and classrooms more flexible/adaptable to change and more accessible to designers from marginalized communities?

I would counter that with two rhetorical/not rhetorical questions for you:

1. Do you think that flexibility and adaptability are necessarily good traits?

2. Socioeconomically, we have seen that it drives down the amount of money that people make and increase labor exponentially. Is that what we want from the future?