After taking a 9-month break from the recruitment and the digital design industry, I returned to join the Creative & Design team at Futureheads.

You can imagine how fast the digital design landscape has changed over these last 9 months and that’s why I decided to blog about what have been some of the most stand-out changes in that period.

Shift from Digital Advertising to Digital Product

Digital designers are honing their skills, particularly in user interface design and are now more heavily involved in the thinking and process behind the user experience

This is something I have seen slowly happening over the last five years, but more so recently.  Digital designers are honing their skills, particularly in user interface design and are now more heavily involved in the thinking and process behind the user experience.  This has resulted in a lot of designers looking for bigger projects, which ultimately have a longer life span.

Whereas advertising agencies used to have the largest budgets in digital, now we see large venture capitalist firms backing small start-up digital products, and FTSE companies are seeing the benefit of digital investment. New, smaller digital product agencies are emerging, though I have seen more growth building within in-house teams, both permanent and contract.  This has resulted in a shift in talent, particularly in the hands-on market (graduates – senior designers) who now aspire for a different career path.

This is partly due to the design of digital products, and being a part of something that could affect a demographic of users; people they can relate to; possibly themselves, friends and family.

Increase in Salaries

Instances of higher salaries across that area of the market have been noted due to large companies now investing more money in digital, and seeing the worth in good design.  I see this as another benefit for a lot of designers to work in-house, on digital products, in start-ups, etc…

A ripple effect across the industry has taken place, due to more money being invested in digital product, large site builds and apps. Salaries initially started to rise within this area of the market but this is now slowly working its way through the industry, and agencies are having to pay more to hold on to talent.

Expanded Freelance/Contract Market

There appear to be longer contracts in the market at the moment. I see this as another result of companies seeing their ROI in digital, building teams internally, usually with the aid of a digital/tech consultancy instead of outsourcing the whole project to an agency. Designers, Project/Product Managers, and Developers work for the whole duration; 3-12 months, sometimes longer, on healthy contract day rates and have direct contact with the decision makers, therefore having more influence on the design.

To be a strong candidate for these kinds of contract positions; strong presentation, sales skills, and business acumen are needed on top of strong UI and digital design skill. These skills are specifically desired when dealing with senior stakeholders and the likes of CEOs, CTOs, CMOs, etc., of large multinationals.

Visual/UI Designers with improved UX

With more of a collaborative approach on projects, different skillsets combined from early on – usually UX designers, visual designers and developers.  People’s skill sets are stretched, particularly between visual and UX; candidates often work across the two disciplines.  Visual designers are part of the whole process, and while not necessarily specialising in user experience, are practicing this side of their skillset on nearly every project; thinking about the user’s journey through a site or app. This enables them to understand the research and data pulled, helping them use it more efficiently.

Strong visually focused designers who take interest in product design, and are able to think about the bigger picture, take on the core UX principals offering a visually focused full-service design.  They usually work with UX researchers, who are able to track, and analyse data that the designer can then interpret and design the site/app in accordance.

Usually this kind of designer, while stretched across UI/UX, their skillset is not split 50/50.  Larger companies tend to want to hire UX specialists, improving the general functional and navigational aspects with a lot more thought, process and research.

Meaning, this kind of visual/digital designer with a UX skillset tends to work better in smaller companies, on small projects or in start-up environments. Though it isn’t impossible for visual heavy UI/UX designers to find end-to-end roles on larger projects too.

If you have any of your own thoughts on any of my observations, or want to add any particular points I’d be very interested in hearing from you, please email me at david.mcconaghy@wearefutureheads.co.uk.

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