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Crowding at the bottom of the funnel

Note: I’m a student pursuing a B.Design, but I spent most of my college life outside: freelancing and assisting various startups, as opposed to actually being in class. Take my opinion with a grain of salt.

This short note documents my trail of thought following an interesting discussion where some folks pointed out that "crowding at the bottom of the funnel" (w.r.t skill) is becoming an increasingly rampant issue in the design industry, with others pointing out that any step to try and combat it can never amount to anything but gatekeeping.

Concern? The barrier of entry to call yourself a designer is non-existent and a by-product of that is substandard quality across the industry.

Fighting this problem by engaging in gatekeeping and other priviledge oriented practices typically leads to an unhealthy community at best, one that is neither inclusive nor collaborative. It’s something NID attempted a while ago and was promptly met with severe backlash on twitter.

Design Education is far from the right answer. It's obvious that education certification are barely any indication of a designer's capabilities. The most incredible ones I know don’t have any, and even the ones who do rarely attribute their success to their academic qualifications whatsoever.

In fact: the more I look around, the more evidence I find that designers produced by Institutions seem to actually be worse than their self-taught counterparts. I know, I’m part of one such institution myself, remember?

  1. The Case Study Factory

For months I was unhappy about the mean quality bar of the industry being lower than it could be, the ifs and hows of potential "solutions" remained unresolved in my head, and no one was really able to give me a convincing argument either for or against thinking about it.

Until today, that is. Enter Frédéric Bastiat, a French economist, with an excerpt from his 1850 essay called: the Parable of the Broken Window.

When a child accidentally smashes a window, and then it has to be repaired, does the accident constitute benefit to society, due to the economic activity of repairing the window? Wikipedia

Consider the above example: a child smashes the window and his dad is furious. As consolation, the nearby witnesses say things along the lines of "...it's alright that it broke, how else will the repairmen earn if no windows were to ever break?" This makes sense to Dad, who calms down and calls a repairman. The repairman promptly fixes the damage, collects his fee and walks away after mentally thanking the child.

The above parts are all seen, something we observe and make sense of. But here’s the part that is not seen: money that Dad paid the repairman, is money that he can now spend anywhere else, say on a family movie!

The act of breaking the window did indeed observably contribute to the repair industry, but it took away from the movie industry, something which neither the Dad nor the witnesses observed at first.

TL/DR: Bastiat demonstrates how opportunity costs and unintended consequences affect economic activity in not-so-obvious ways.

I now knew what I'd failed to factor in my equation: the "not seen" by-product of the continued influx of designers in the workforce!

  1. Design as a discipline gained recognition and demand in the industry, leading to far more opportunities today than there were a decade ago.
  1. It reached more ears, including those of the parents of the Indian youth resulting in more potential talent who opted / switched to design as a new career.

writing in a hurry because I'm late for bed, but there's much more I missed.

Now that I start to weigh in the positives of everything that has happened over the last decade, I find that so much of it can be attributed to the "widespread adoption" of design as a career. Perhaps we'll close the gap. Perhaps with time, our standards will rise and designers of tomorrow will be held more accountable for their work.

More will be demanded of them, as it should be.

Thanks for reading!