If you read many publications about design and freelancing you have probably noticed there can be a lot of doom and gloom in regards to the current state of the design industry. I hear quite a lot of hopeless chatter about how the internet age and the advent of affordable computers and software have let loose a torrent of unskilled designers willing to work for next to nothing and devalue the industry.
Pretty bleak right?
Don’t get me wrong, I too find these trends troubling. The industry is changing with the world around it, and if designers don’t react they risk being left behind.
This is nothing new though. The internet has changed a lot of businesses. It shattered the old music industry, and has shaken both the film, and book publishing industries. Bigger record labels and publishing houses are becoming less profitable, and some are closing up shop altogether. Artists are starting to produce work and release it independent of bigger corporations.
So what the heck does any of this have to do with design?
Well a couple of things.
First: the design industry is going through changes that look a lot like the ones that other creative fields went though recently. The technology to be a designer is now available to everyone, designers are being forced to adapt to the new environment in order to survive. The waves of unskilled or mid and low level designers this creates, makes it a difficult world to be a bigger studio in. A world perhaps better suited to a smaller “independent” designers.
Secondly: there are hoards of amazingly creative and popular artists out there making work independently that need to hire designers for book covers, record art, and film related design. Independent artists don’t have in-house designers like big record companies did. This is a new and growing client pool and it can be one of the more rewarding ones to work in. It also means designers not backed by a professional studio with a big name can still have opportunity to work with these high profile clients.
While I was still in school studying design I was contacted by a Canadian best selling author to design the cover of his latest novel. He is a successful author who had noticed the changes in the publishing landscape and decided to do something about it. Rather than publish his latest novel with a traditional publisher he decided to go it alone. Publishing it independently the way musical artists have been doing for a few years now.
Because of that choice the design work was available to me, even as a student, that would have otherwise been taken care of by an in-house designer at a publishing company.
Despite the challenges our changing industry might present us with, they are not without their silver linings. There are some incredible new opportunities available because of this new demographic of clients.
How can you get a piece of that action?
Support the arts! Find out what’s going on around you and make an effort to get involved. Go to music shows, art shows, book readings and film festivals. Meet the people involved and make sure they know what services you offer.
Make sure your portfolio shows you can do this type of work. Even if they are just concepts add a book or record cover to your portfolio so browsing artists can see what you can do.
If for nothing else, this reason alone proves now is as good a time as any to start freelancing as a designer.
What are you doing to get in on this new market? Let me know in the comments!