Ageism in Tech: Why Older Designers Are Better Than Younger Designers (medium.com)
4 years ago from Christina Wu, Product Designer
4 years ago from Christina Wu, Product Designer
Except that companies don't want to pay older designers what they are worth. They want young kids out of school who will work for nothing.
This is the main problem, BUT sure, you can be a 1 year-startup working with all the cool kids and fail, or you can hire some more experienced ppl, learn from them, even let them guide you and become a success. But the thing is, there aren't overnight success stories - most startups that hit it big and you see them on techcrunch today, they have a 10 year story behind, that nobody sees at first.
Most startups unicorn-level today, they are at least 10 years old in the market. And come to think about it, most young ppl still don't even know that Instagram and Whatsapp are both owned by Facebook...but they want to emulate their success stories without putting in the work first.
Understood, but I'm not even talking startups. Many established companies shun older workers.
Last year I interviewed with a long-running monthly publication run by a veteran newspaper man. In fact, most of the staff are older than me. My background is in the media industry, so we hit it off wonderfully and I was all but assured I would be getting the position. The publisher even inquired about what I was looking for pay-wise, and I told him. He responded that would work. But in the end, they went with a young person who they wouldn't have to pay as much.
This is what plagues the design industry as a whole. Be it a client or an employer, they both want the work to be done, but neither are willing to pay what it is worth.
Then my man, you'll have to re-invent yourself, start thinking more about educating others and less doing actual 9-5 work at a full-time job.
Start a blog, write some ebooks/online courses, start doing workshops, stuff like that - you will be more successful as an educator than as a full-time worker in your older years. Start showing all that experience you must have in many fields!
But also good luck with finding a full-time job too if that's still needed! Keep applying, there are still lots of companies that value experience more. You just gotta find a good one.
"But in the end, they went with a young person who they wouldn't have to pay as much." Is it what they told you?
Sadly, I don't think many companies can even make the case that they're picking younger people to save money. Designers in tech make great money, even right out of school.
I suspect it has more to do with the perceived lack of "seriousness" in design work. Unless you manage to wrap your labor offering in technical prestige language, you'll quickly find yourself interviewing with people who fundamentally see design as expensive art and wonder why someone in their thirties/forties/fifties/sixties hasn't grown out of playing with crayons.
Consequently, "serious" design work (enterprise, healthcare, finance, etc) tends to pay well and hire older while "childish" design work (marketing, entertainment, social media) tends to pay poorly and hire younger.
It's a totally artificial arrangement, but the economics make it self-fulfilling.
I'm 46. I don't think of myself as old (that is until I learn that many of the peopleI work with are closer in age to my children than me — but that's neither here or there).
I believe there is more a "fear" of ageism versus and actual problem with ageism. We all fear that will be judged, not based on our talent or experience, but on things we are not able to change. And that can and does happen, but I don't believe it's systemic (though I don't have anything other than anecdotal evidence).
The most experience I have related to "ageism" is related to "costs", because experience almost always equals expense. Companies that are more interested in saving money than in paying for talent, it's not ageism, it's shortsighted stupidity. The best teams are the teams with diversity (in age, gender, ethnicity, ability, experience, expertise, etc).
I've been in design for 25 years. I'm in the position now of hiring and leading and growing other designers. Age has never been something I've thought about — I'm more likely not to hire someone because of their personality and attitude (willingness to learn and collaborate) than their age. And as I've seen written, ageism does cut both ways.
There are far too many words that need, at the very least clarification, and at the most consensus. What is "older"? When you're 36? 38? 45? 56? What is "better"? Better in creativity? Design solutions? Effectiveness? Leadership? Patience? What is "younger"? 21? 29? 35? Without having any sort of commonly understood definition of what any of that means, there can never be any worthwhile discussion.
I'm not here to agree or disagree with this article, but the whole thing is purely opinion and anecdotal, it would be great if the author backed up his claims with some scientific studies.
for example he states:
"Older people are generally more patient and diligent than younger people."
Okay, how do you know this, was there a study done? Or is this just some bias that we accept as true?
I got better headings for that article
'Some people are older than others. OMG How come?'
'I got a raise recently because I got old'
'Please clap my article, I need to show something on my CV'
'Ppl with years of experience are better than non-experienced younglings.'
A good designer is more than simply age. It's general wisdom, and patience. The ability to communicate, and more importantly listen. As the author says these traits are present at any age, but in general come with time. I'd include an additional point, that with the world's demographic is shifting to 40+ years of age (really older), it's more important than ever to really put a concerted effort into understanding, and catering to the older generations. I've known quite a few agencies that have hired designers over 50 to achieve that perspective. The world isn't young, but varied. Companies should start realizing this, or risk losing grasp of their world presence.
As i am consider my self old, that means i am a good designer? Thought works do and not my personal ego. I should write medium articles, because i can which means because i am old that i write better than younger people.
Silly discussion. If you are old you just got way more experience but that doesn't necessary mean i am better than the younger ones. But this is just my lazy old opinion.
secretly putting dentures back in
The discussion should be related more about the years of experience doing a thing, than how old you really are as a person.
Sure, different people progress faster or slower, depends on each of them.
But it's the same "10.000 hours rule" for everybody, either if you start on something at 25 or 55...you need to put in the hours and do the work first, before you can really get good at anything.
Sure, but you need to consider technological change. Creating weblayouts on Photoshop is completly different than in Sketch. You will be faster in Sketch which gives you more creative time instead of pushing pixels in PS. Also Paradigms doesn‘t count when something new shows up, React for example.
"Without good communication skills, you can’t truly call yourself a designer"
You can call yourself whatever you like, but that does not mean we should take your word for it, right? It's more of a "show, don't tell" situation...
I'm confused, are you agreeing with the notion that communication skills is needed before you are a designer?
If I show you I can design, but whilst doing so communicate badly I'm a designer or not?
Designing is a form of communication.
I'm discussing the statement made in the article. Which I believed was an odd point made in a paragraph that can be summed up by "design is primarily a job of talking to people".
Again you don't need to be good at communicating to be a designer. An autistic person who designs an app for themself - whilst communicating with no one - is a designer. That disability come with inherent lack of communications skills, and this setup of working for ones self also requires no communications skills. But they are a designer if they design something.
So when someone tells me "Without good communication skills, you can’t truly call yourself a designer", I'm going to say you can.
The product you are designing needs to do the communication. In a simple sense: You can design a great poster for an event that captures attention, conveys the details and people feel emotion without you being a great communicatior on your own and in a social fashion.
Although it helps, not denying that.
what that means you imply that introverts can't design products. am I correct?
No, the opposite.
I am saying that communication skills are not essential to designing good products. They help, but not essential.
You can. However, to be a successful designer, you're gonna need to communicate effectively with clients, stakeholders, co-workers.
What is your definition of successful? Even good designers output work that doesn't hit the metrics they were after (which is the reason lots of companies go with agile development. You don't get things right the first try). Another definition could be monetary success, but even then a good designer taking a low paid job at a new startup or non-profit/charity would be paid less than a worse designer, so this isn't a measure of success.
"you're gonna need to communicate effectively with clients, stakeholders, co-workers."
Maybe at an agency, but a designer in a product team or self employed on their own product doesn't need to be good at that, or even do any of that to be "successful". And the best teams are made up of people from all types.
I have learning difficulties and other development issues. I'm bad with people and communicating, I've learnt some skills to get by that involve me communicating less than others. I'm literally telling people they don't need to be good at communicating to be a designer. But you and other commenters are belittling this notion and showing a level of distain for others if they are bad at communicating. Be it for social issues or disabilities. You really want to tell someone they won't be successful as a designer if they have learning difficulties? I would prefer if we could understand that not everyone is the same and some of us need to work around in other ways to get the job done. And getting the job done is my definition of success.
So if anyone else out here is trying to be a designer and are bad at communicating don't listen to these commenters.
I've worked with with UX researchers who do the communicating with users, PMs and business people who deal with clients. And there are other systems you can put in place to help you. You can be a good designer even if you are mute. Design is understanding a problem and using design thinking to achieve a goal. Do that and get paid then you are successful.
Ok, would you agree then if I phrased it as: communication is a useful skill to have to be successful (however you want to define success:goals, money, metrics, personal satisfaction) in a designer role? For sure there are ways to succeed without this skill, but having it will be an enormous asset, and may be crucial in some situations.
And this is coming from a designer that is not good at communicating, but I'm working hard at improving because I've realized it's crucial to achieving my goals.
to be a successful designer
You stated you needed it. This is the antithesis of what I'm saying.
Communication is a good skill to have no matter the role. As a designer it is good to be able to draw, to use new software, to understand what process is needed to achieve your goal. But non of that is a requirement, and by no means a deal breaker for being successful.
The field of design is so vast from UX research to graphic design. With different skill sets needed for each. And each being able to be played by 1 generalist person, or a whole team of specialists. So it feels asinine to claim that missing a skill makes you not "successful".
You don't need to design to be a good designer nowadays. Just use buzzwords and blurt out an opinion every single thing -doesn't matter if it's related or not. You'll be a great and famous ux designer in no time.
that kind of designers are the target of that garbage article, so don't worry.
Yeah the low barrier to entry has flooded the field with people preferring to muse on medium over putting out practical work that actually effects users.
This is why places like DN should be a good discussion point for us as a community to critique articles like this. I want juniors coming into this field who may have social or communication problems to not be put off by articles (and commenters) like this.
Too many people in this world telling you what you can and can't do. How you have to be to be a [insert any profession].
What struck me as odd about this article was that there wasn't a lot of evidence about companies not hiring older designers because of age. Did the author actually survey a bunch of companies? Or is this going off of hallway talk from people who are going off of assumptions and feelings? Are you in the the silicon valley bubble (let's be honest, the culture there is less than spectacular)?
From my experience, I've seen a lot of companies prefer older designers, hence why companies look for "Principal" or "Staff" designers. It's very hard to get a job with little experience. For context, I'm based in San Diego so maybe we're just more chill down here.
This article judges talent with age (asserting younger people are inferior... due to age) and ironically falls victim to ageism.
A good craftsman is curious, continually learning, open to exploration, and above all else has a will to produce good, usable work. Age doesn't really provide a barrier to any of those qualities. Older designers have their risks too: coming to a job with a lifelong list of bad habits, high expectations that they don't have to show their work or prove usability, etc, etc. It's very easy to generalize about a group based on age, but for knowledge work like ours it's pretty pointless. Treat individuals as if you can learn something from them — with respect.
EDIT: After reading more comments under this post it's clear the community is also rife with ageism... like assuming young designers pilfer UI kits and care nothing for usability. Basically all school's and code academy's preach UX as a design cornerstone. Everyone is bad at ageism, I guess.
lol, because we have more experience?
For logo designers: a younger designer jumps right in in Illustrator and takes a lot of time to develop 10-20 (bad concepts) to finally figure out maybe a few good ones and present to the client that will ask a lot of changes on them VS. an experienced logo designer that does research, talks a lot with the client first, listens to his needs, then comes up with 1 great idea to present and nails it!
Paul Scher from Pentagram who designed the Citi logo on a napkin with a client present and nailed it https://medium.com/@nedwin/the-1-5m-napkin-abd2702927d0
Milton Glaser came up with the iconic "I <3 NY" logo during a taxi drive https://www.logoworks.com/blog/a-brief-history-of-the-i-love-new-york-logo/
Point: it takes at least 10 years of work to get to a level that enables you to come up with a good brand strategy, to design a great logo and an effective design system for a brand, that can live on at least 5-10 years in the current markets.
For UX/UI designers: new designers with 1-3-5 years experience jump right on dribbble for inspiration, research ui kits, latest trends, come up with a good looking UI but useless after user testing and hard to implement with all those trendy layouts and eye candy effects VS. an experienced (UX/Web) designer that takes time to research user needs, works with a team of developers to do some MVP prototypes, user test every step of the way, knows all the good design patterns because he already used The Internet since the '90s and knows a lot of user psychology too so he can design from the user's perspective first!
Good: well known product/design studios like Fi, Area 17, DIA, Huge, Design Studio, ueno even, all the product design ppl behind AirBNB, Twitter, Spotify, even Facebook (with all their dark patterns) also creative ppl at Nike, Apple, Dyson, Braun, etc.
Bad: first, designers behind Snap (thats some bad UX guys, no man above 30 would know how to use that app!), then all the behance/dribbble "designers" that constantly come up with useless eye candy designs for weather, calendars, crypto apps, "fashion" websites, all those rebranding Apple, Starbucks, cryptocoin exchanges and apps and all that useless design "exercises" that keep rolling in day and night and devalue the design market/industry...there's no good design without research and planning, without sweat & tears, design is always how it works, not just how it looks, please remember that! Also remember we are doing design for other people to use, not just to try to be cool amongst other designers and boost about how many likes your dribbble shots got!
This is a good article - thanks Jamal - but it's just a thought...we need to really start to focus on these things, on mental health, on burn-out syndrome, on educating clients about the value of real design (thinking) and lots more...
p.s. It's so funny to see how many young designers post and repost those famous Dieter Rams 10 Principles of "Good Design" but so few really take the time and understand and use them in their work - and it shows!
No one on this thread talking about how this is in poor taste and dividing the community like the Blacks Who Code site? Weird. (To be clear I don't think it is.)
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