A new discussion paper released by the DIA has revealed that while Australia may be filled with passionate designers, the market may not have room for them.

It is absolutely clear that the total number of designers in Australia far outstrips the realistic commercial demand for design services ~ David Robertson LFDIA.

In a case of oversupply, a new discussion paper released by The Design Institute of Australia (DIA), has revealed that while Australia may be filled with passionate designers, the market may not have room for them.

The paper entitled, ‘Australian Design 2013′ was written by David Robertson LFDIA who is also a designer and business owner. The paper compares the results from two DIA Fees and Salary Surveys from 2003 and 2011 with the 2003 survey providing baseline data.

While globalisation has offered a wider breadth of economic opportunities to the market, it has also fiercely increased competition for the design industry.

australian population per designer

The paper which interviewed almost 1,000 designers also highlighted educational concerns where the country is experiencing an influx of design graduates and credibility is in great demand with self appointed ‘designers’ on the rise.

The acceleration of technology and Australia’s slowing manufacturing industry were also uncovered as market challenges and designers scramble to find a place in a shrinking market.

Statistics in the paper revealed that according to the 2011 Australian Census that where was excess of 160,000 Australians (equating to one in every 140 Australians) with tertiary qualifications in aesthetic-based design disciplines.

An array of design professions were represented in this number including: architects, interior designers and decorators, industrial designers, graphic designers, web designers, textile designers, fashion designers, jewellery designers, and landscape and urban designers.

Of these 160,000 potential designers, around 89,000 had jobs in an ANZSCO-listed design occupation.

shifting conserns

However, the census did not reveal that many thousands that are operating in design while employed in another occupation thus identifying competition as one of the major challenges for designers.

The survey also identified the following four major external factors of designer discontent:

  • The education industry
  • Technological change
  • International trade changes
  • Media and communication change

“All of these concerns expressed by the design community are real,” explained Robertson.

Robertson also reiterated that the increasing number of design graduates is a large contributor to the oversupply of designers stating: “The proliferation of tertiary design education courses in Australia has contributed substantially to the problem.”

“There can be a belief amongst students that the existence of a tertiary course implies the existence of employment relating to it. That is clearly not the case, but the design profession has no power to directly modify the number of graduates produced,” he added.

qualifications vs jobs

“Only a clear message from the marketplace on job availability and remuneration levels will alter students’ decisions to purchase design educations.”

In terms of technology, there have been incredible benefits of digitalisation where designers now have the ability to liaise internationally and purchasers are becoming comfortable with digital transactions that include no face-to-face contact.

Although this increase in international access and remote design transactions has opened a market, it has in reverse also contributed to a reduction in services close to production location.

“In the building and construction industry, the supply of materials, furniture and custom fitments become increasingly easy to source internationally and harder to obtain from diminished sources of local production,” confirms Robertson.

Other highlighted concerns in the paper included skills atrophy, in-house design services, and lack of skills recognition.

Robertson who is a multiple-term DIA Past National President (2000-2008) is an advocate for professional memberships and suggests designers join a membership organisation.

“Professional designers should increase their differentiation from other service providers by professional membership, accreditation, CPD, best practice consulting processes, and actively displaying their credentials,” explains Robertson.

David Robertson, LFDIA

David Robertson, LFDIA

Referring to the benefits of a DIA membership, Robertson describes it as a crucial way to display professional credibility whiles simultaneously giving a voice to your industry.

For professional membership organisations like the DIA, Robertson says the list of necessary actions is long and varied. Amongst them, a long overdue step is an objective, ‘warts and all’ assessment of the industry to secondary schools and parents of prospective design students to help avoid the over-promotion of design and its job prospects.

Robertson also wants to see the DIA and other design support organisations unite to create a consolidated, well resourced organsational base for the design sector.

However, Robertson warns it’s not purely up to the organisations to put strategies in place to address some of the highlighted concerns, he also wants to see designers actively participate to improve their own working environment.