Design guru Mike Monteiro claims schools to blame for greedy, under-skilled generation

Montiero fears a lost generation of designers

Monteiro fears a lost generation of designers

The marketing world is heading towards a ‘lost generation’ of designers. Employees too focused on pulling giant pay cheques before they have mastered essential business skills, according to leading designer Mike Monteiro.

Monteiro, co-founder of San Francisco-based design house Mule, warns that while we are in the golden age of design “the industry is screwed”.

Monteiro is in Australia this week to speak at the Above All Human technology and design conference in Melbourne on Friday, and said the perceived need for design in almost everything is creating a dangerous bubble set to burst.

“We have done a marvellous job in explaining products and services that they make, especially the digital ones, but they need to be well-designed so they can be used by normal people,” Monteiro told Mumbrella.

“We have come a long way from the time where digital products and services looked horrible, like enterprise software, because it’s all gone mainstream now,” Monteiro said.

Mike Monteiro work

Some of Mike Monteir’s campaigns

“Making sure that things not just work correctly but are pleasant to interact with can be the difference between your product or service succeeding or failing. Because if you’re not designing something well then you competitor is.”

But he warned the growing need for design has created a more serious problem than the ones designers are being recruited to solve.

“It used to be you would build something, your engineers would cobble it together and, at the last minute you would bring in a designer and they would do what they could at that point – which was not much,” he said.

“Now you even have start-ups with designers as leaders and even initial founders. So people understand the need for (design).

“That is why it’s the glorious age of design. Now the reason we’re screwed is because we have a demand for something that does not exist. We don’t have that many good designers. We have not trained that many good designers and there is a giant shortfall.”

He cited the example the example of a “very large” start-up which needed 500 designers, urgently.

“I said, ‘Where are you going to find 500 good designers and he said ‘Who said anything about ‘good’, I just need to find 500′.”

He blames design schools for failing to teach fundamentals as well as the pull of start-ups offering massive money to people who have yet to fully master their talents.

“We are taking all these designers straight out of design school and putting them in leadership positions simply because we need numbers,” he said.

“Those same kids, at the same time they are talking to me, they are getting offers five times the amount that I can reasonably pay them to go work at some ridiculous start-up. We are creating products that are very deeply embedded in the social fabric of what people do.”

Monteiro cites a Tinder design that pulled in a person’s first and last name and where they worked when used.

“These are design decisions that companies are making that have real world consequences.

“If you have a decision like that and you put it in front of a designer who has just come out of school, they are not going to see the holes in that. They are not going to be willing to fight with their boss. This is totally irresponsible design, this is black arts UI.

“The more we are building tools that are enmeshed in our social fabric, the more that we need designers who are capable of having those fights.

“What I can do is try and convince designers that they should not put themselves in positions like that; that their education isn’t finished yet.

“They could go make $250,000 a year at Uber right now but they are absolutely not ready for that job and their best bet – especially if they want a long career in design – is to go to a place where you can get some training and some mentorship, and then leap into those positions.”

Monteiro said demand is so high for designers that the bubble is set to burst.

“Eventually this corrects itself, but I’m afraid that we are heading toward a lost generation of designers. I think we have got a generation of designers right now who are more interested in being entrepreneurs and founders than in being designers.

“Every craft should have people you look up to, people who are doing it right. I can think of other crafts and think of people who are doing things the right way, doing things the wrong way; I can give you 15 examples in baseball, but in design the people who are doing it t right are not doing it loudly.”

Monteiro said that for designers to flourish again and not just be creating for a market that is seeking things to sell, they should look for the problems that needed to be solved rather than the things that could be sold.

“Figure out how you can help solve those problems,” he said.

The Above All Human conference takes place in Melbourne this Friday for more information click here.

Simon Canning



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