In the next decade, many design jobs will move offshore. If you think I’m wrong, if you think this is preposterous, then talk to out-of-work programmers who thought the same thing only five years ago. But Victor, you protest, someone can’t do user research from 4000 miles away. To this I’d say, most companies aren’t doing user research anyway. Good-enough design is good-enough to most companies, and good-enough design can be done offshore.
Paul Ford, in Outsourcing, Etc., says, ‘I’m struck by the irony that the tools, networks, and protocols built over the last 40 years by programmers are the exact mechanism that allows these jobs to move overseas.‘ The same is true for design, as we write about design, critique each other’s work, and release our tools for those overseas to learn from. Furthermore, when we offshore our programming work, we send them our designs, we explain our designs, and in doing so we educate offshore workers in design. They’re probably getting a better case study-based education than many of us have had.
India, for example, has a new, growing middle class that will absorb the jobs that we won’t be able to fill in the coming years. Already firms right here in New York City have difficulty finding entry-level web design workers. You’d think recent college graduates would love a job in this industry, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Mind you, I don’t think this is a bad thing, it is simply the ways things are. If we recognize this now and prepare our skills accordingly (i.e. move up in the problem-solving food chain) we’ll protect our ability to earn a living. Brett Lider has some good ideas along these lines.