The Design Industry Is Shifting. Don’t Be Left Behind.

About once every two months a negative comment directed at Design Pickle emerges. Usually, in the form of a Facebook or blog comment, they take on the (roughly) same argument that somehow we are destroying the sanctity of graphic design with our business model.

For example:

Here’s a comment after my interview on the Less Doing podcast:

image of a negative facebook comment

Here’s a Twitter post:

And here’s a Facebook comment during our launch in January:

image of a negative facebook post

At the surface, these types of reactions make sense. After all, our price is literally untouchable or unthinkable for any creative professional to compete with. As some of you know I used to be one of these creative professionals, selling production design services for $150 an hour.

Design Pickle is as low as $370 per month.

With this critique, I thought it was appropriate to explain a core belief around the pickle. One where I firmly believe services like mine and other disruptive design startups are actually pushing the creative professional industry forward.

Let me explain.

In his incredible book Zero to One, Peter Theil (amongst just about every other topic imaginable) discusses us how advances in technology enable mankind to solve bigger challenges their predecessors would find unthinkable.

image of the cover of zero to one by peter thiel

He illustrates this point with the concept of light. Due to technological innovation, the majority of the world is no longer concerned about producing light. 200 years ago this was not the case (light bulbs weren’t even commercially available until the late 19th century). Individuals spent a large amount of their time, money and energy to produce, procure and/or purchase light.

For the 1 billion people today still without electric light, economic development is a real concern. As light becomes more available (less fire, more light bulbs) individuals have surplus time, money and energy to invest in other challenges.

It’s hard to make an impact on the economy when several working days can be dedicated to illuminating your home.

Fast forward to the design profession. Advances in technology have had the same impact. Designers no longer have all night press checks, a delay while film develops, nor are they chained to their desktop office computer. Countless advances have made the life of the 2015 designer unthinkable for the 1995 designer.

As we obtain surplus time, money and energy, we reinvest that in solving more challenge problems. Today’s designers don’t need to worry about having to code HTML to create a website. They use WordPress or Squarespace.

As economies advance globally, the same effect happens.

Take manufacturing. For hundreds of years, our textile industry was domestically based. In the 1960s & 1970s, the boom in information technology, and more specifically the ability to easily communicate internationally pushed manufacturing overseas and the cost of goods fell through the floor. Today, we now enjoy $5 t-shirts and $10 jackets (not without its own controversy).

But what about the sanctity of the domestic textile worker? Did we destroy his profession and existence? Absolutely not. Those folks shifted into new emerging and more challenging industries.

Automotive and manufacturing saw a boom in the 1960s and 1970s. When those industries shifted, microprocessing and technology took off in the 1980s and 1990s. Another shift. Software and hardware in the 1990s and 2000s. Another shift. Mobile and social in the 2000s until today. And so on.

It’s no secret Design Pickle uses a network of international designers. In the last decade global creative markets burst open with marketplaces like Elance and 99Designs coming onto the scene. Domestic designers are now competing against hourly rates in the single digits! Did this mean the end of the profession?

Absolutely not.

In this respect, the design industry already reacted and shifted — the cheap labor boat sailed. As a result of the shift fields like UI/UX, app/mobile design and other more complex professions emerged. The word strategy, branding, and research are design specialties within org charts across the globe. Designers rose to the occasion to solve more challenging problems.

But if cheap design isn’t the shift, why now the fuss?

Change is never easy.

People are resistant to change in order to preserve what is comfortable or familiar to them. However, a less philosophical and more accurate answer lies in another and the current macroeconomic shift disrupting the globe: Productized services.

Productized services take old, monolithic industries and turn them upside down primarily by leveraging technology to capitalize on inefficient supply chain models. Uber and Airbnb are the most familiar juggernauts in the space and the legacy industries are not happy. How about consumers? Do you hear consumers complaining about Uber or Airbnb? Generally not. Productized services shifted the supply of cars and beds into a new model that is fast, affordable and more inline with the demands of today’s consumer.

Back to the professional designer.

At Design Pickle we are the productized service within the design industry.

We are using technology and software to deliver design in a faster and more reliable way at a great price. There’s no kickoff meeting, no hourly billing, not even a phone call to get started. We’ve had hundreds of clients come through our door and I can confidently say most of them are really pleased with the new approach we provide. They also know we are not a fit for everything they need. They can have their designer and their pickle.

Our current target is to find 1,000 folks who love our service. Then 2,000 and after that, we’ll see how big the pickle jar can get. Will we ruin any designer’s careers? Not likely. There’s far more complex work out there we will never touch.

But our ultimate vision — and the answer to why we’re doing all this crazy stuff — is for the pickle to create surplus time, energy and money for professionals around the globe to focus on bigger problems coming down the pipeline (not drain their time resizing photos or adjusting brochures).

Sometimes, as Taylor Swift reminds us, we just have to shake it off. Full steam ahead for this Pickle train!

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