It’s all change in the creative and digital design sector as the big management consultancies, Accenture, McKinsey and Deloitte continue the acquisition trail snapping up boutique creative and design studios on their way. First Heat (chomp), then VeryDay (chomp) followed by Karmarama (double chomp). It’s small wonder that Accenture Interactive, and Deloitte Digital have muscled their way into the top three digital agency networks (by revenue) in Ad Age’s 2016 Agency Report.
What does this blurring of boundaries between corporate behemoths and creative/design agencies mean when it comes to hiring UX and design talent in 2017? We have identified four key trends:
1. Internal workplace culture will take centre stage
Deloitte Digital and Heat, McKinsey and VeryDay, Accenture and Karmarama: buyouts of boutique design and digital agencies byglobal corporations raise the prospect of culture clash between business consultancies and free spirit creative studios. As one Twitter reaction to the Accenture/Karmarama deal put it: “wow, cultural fit written all over that!”
While these acquisitions are testament to the power of design in branding and innovation, in practice blending an environment that encourages great ideas and creativity with one where there is a hardnosed focus on ROI and delivering shareholder value, is challenging. In 2017 we are likely to see some fall-out in the form of creative talent departing the big corporates.
This isn’t going to stop global corporations’ hunger for purchasing small to medium-sized digital and design shops as they seek to boost their creative and design capabilities. Consequently, culture will become a key focus for these businesses. Over the next year expect acquiring firms to wisen up, learn from the mistakes of their competitors and start toimplement transition strategies to prevent loss of staff and authenticity.In turn, any integration issuesthat inevitably follow these radical acquisitions, will start to level-out.
In response to increased consolidation agrowing number of small-to-medium independent studios will emerge to satisfy client demand for variety and choice.
2. Large companies will start getting smarter about how to implement design-thinking across the whole business
As the recent buying spree demonstrates, 2016 was a big year for larger companies seeking to establish their own design teams in-house, as they increasingly value the way in which in-house design can enhance strategy and the wider business. Consequently, freelance UX designers are experiencing a decline in big business-design projects in favour of short-term projects with less substance. That said there is still a lack of understanding within big corporates around how different teams should collaborate to achieve optimal results.
As a result, 2017 is likely to see a surge in demand for organisational design talent – designers who know how to build, maintain and grow a business – as companies seek to understand how touse design thinking and practice to help solve wider business challenges.
3. The line between UX and UI will blur and product designers will be in demand
The need for designers with both UI and UX skillshas increased recently, and this will continue as we enter 2017. This trend may result from confusion about the difference between these two disciplines. It also raises questions about whether UI should be lumped in with UX, and about how we define design within product development.
Looking ahead, 2017 will see the rise of the product designer as businesses increasingly demand talent with hybrid design/product management skills who can deliver right from design, to strategy, to implementation and post-care.This role of product development has developed a lot over the years but now incorporates everything from aesthetics and design to the overall user experience and product development. To evolve further, the role of product designer will need to include an element of business analysis and research to inform design decisions.
The rise of the product designer is very noticeable in start-ups especially, which is perhaps not surprising because fledgling companies benefit greatly from people who have adaptable skills that flex according to business needs. In bigger businesses, UX and UI are still separate roles but the debate about whether that should continue to be the case, is ongoing.
4. A decline in demand for packaging and print based talent
As businesses shift towards digital services and platforms, branding agencies are having to adapt quickly to clients who demand complex digital solutions in order to deliver experiences for consumerswho live and breathe beyond a logo.
As a result, it’s increasingly standard for branding firms to require designers with a mix of skills across graphics, interaction, and motion who also have experience in both front and back-end.
2017 will see an ongoing need for digital skill sets within traditional branding and design agencies.
As branding agencies seek to future-proof their businesses to meet growing demand for business design and innovation, we expect to see many teams restructure as they accommodate new talent and expertise across the business.