Every decade, the field of design dramatically changes as our culture, values, and technology shift in a variety of directions. Designers who grew up listening to cassettes, for example, are now designing interfaces for music streaming services, a concept unfathomable when they were younger.
Every year, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) conducts a design census of all their members. In it, they ask questions pertaining to demographics, employment, hobbies, and personal opinions about the design field, and then publicly release the anonymized data. This book is the end result of visualizing that data.
What do designers think about the future of design? To answer this question, we picked three possible futures (lenses) through which to view the data: a tech-focused design future, an analog-focused design future, and a design future which prioritizes ethics and diversity. We then further tracked these lenses through generational trends (i.e. do older generation really value analog skills more than younger generations do?)
All of AIGA’s data is free to download in a massive spreadsheet. With over 13,000 participants, setting these parameters was necessary to set the focus for this project. Through a combination of CSV Explorer and Python scripts, we narrowed down our data, identified trends, and peppered in our own commentary and theories as to why the trends looked the way they did.
With change as substantial and rapid as these, it’s worth looking at how designers themselves feel about their field, and the direction it’s headed. One of their biggest concerns was generational differences among designers. Through examining the census data, we decided to see just how founded that concern was.
In the end, while there were many different ways to interpret the trends we saw, we focused in on three different lenses. These lenses were potential futures for the field of design. One emphasized ethics and diversity, one emphasized traditional analog skills, and one emphasized adapting to future technology. Within these lenses, we also saw smaller trends, marked in this book by colors in the right margin of each spread. Pink indicates generational consistency or consensus, yellow indicates an outlier generation, green indicates consistent up or down trends, and orange represents the differences in the generations.
Finally, in addition to visualizing these trends, we also included our own commentary throughout the book, on white stickers. Since we’re also designers, we also have our own perspectives on what this data means for us.