Ageism in Graphic Design?

Hello all,

I am collecting primary research for my University degree design project report.

What are your views of ageism on the design industry? Does it exist? Has anyone suffered from age discrimination in the industry or the workplace in general?

All comments are welcome and I’m more than happy for them to be made anonymously.

>>This is a voluntary exercise; all information gathered will be treated in the strictest of confidence and will remain anonymous. The information gathered will be used only for the purpose of my research project as part of my University Graphic Design Degree. Any information gathered will not be passed to third parties. <<

Interesting question. It’s certainly apocryphal in the London design scene. It’s hard to say if it’s true, but aside from the Creative Director, you don’t see many designers over the age of 45.

There is, I suspect, many reasons for this.

I have come across young designers who think older designers are past it/out of touch, but then these youngsters don’t tend to be recruiters.

I think price is an issue - many design agencies are run on a tight budget and older, more experienced designers are frankly expensive.

It’s also a tough profession, demanding long hours, and I think many people just get tired of it and turn their hands to other things – or working for themselves outside of the hot house of a design studio environment.

I will, however, leave you with one true life example of ageism. My ex girlfriend – an experienced graphic designer like myself, who had an impeccable CV, had been freelancing for a number of years at top agencies. When she turned 36, she decided to start lying about her age on her CV – she reckoned 36 was old enough to command top rates of pay but young enough not to be dismissed as past it. I thought she was being paranoid, until she told me that she had been sitting opposite a Design Director discussing new CVs with his colleague. ‘Look, this bloke’s 42, as if we’d employ any designer over 40’, was apparently what she heard. She kept her head down - she was 43 by this point, but looked younger.

Wish me luck - I turn 44 in January

I’ve worked in advertising and PR. Not as a designer, but with a lot of them.

There’s a lot of “up or out” pressure in the creative business. By the time you’re 40 or so, the perception is that you should have advanced past the daily grind of routine layouts and be a creative director, or perhaps shift over to account work. If you’re happy doing the same stuff as when you were 30, then you aren’t ambitious enough. Plus, as** SanVito** said, you’re more expensive than a 30-year old.

There’s also the crush of technology. You could put a graphic artist from the 1920’s into a shop in the 1970’s and they wouldn’t have much trouble adapting. These days you can’t even use a designer from 2004 who hasn’t been brought up to date on the latest software. A lot of places won’t bother to teach you, a lot of artists don’t go back for classes (or pick the wrong technology to learn) and a lot of employers don’t believe that you taught yourself.

All of the above, except that I’m a designer - and many other things - who began with typewriters, blueline board and the wonder of photocopiers that could scale images, and presently has journeyman to instructor level expertise with Adobe CC. I master new tools and techniques easily.

What I think divides the generations is that artists tend to be formed by their earlier years and education, and their style, technique, vision etc. is limited by that formation. Only a few who are on the ball (and in demand) in, say, the early 1980s or late 1990s or early Oughts are going to be able to evolve into a style that is in demand in the next 5-8 years. If your mastered style isn’t in fashion, neither are you - and like the running joke about Mr. Brady in the first movie, your core style is going to show through no matter how hard you try to evolve to something different.

My solution has always been to be a lot more than a “graphic designer.” It’s just one skill set in my professional toolbox.

Slightly different perspective:

I worked for a school that offered a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. The school made every effort to find work for each graduate.

While most of the graduates were indeed in their 20’s, quite a few were in their 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s or above.

As NEW graduates, knowing all of the programs and software, the older students probably had fewer problems finding work - but they did indeed have to start at the low paying, entry level.

Employers would look at the portfolios before even scheduling an interview - so this helped a lot. The students were being judged on their work before they even met for a face to face interview.

Now granted, the young, hot looking girl, or cool looking young dude, would often find it easier to find work - but I think this is true in ANY field. But otherwise, as new graduates simply submitting portfolios for job applications, I think it was pretty fair across the board, regardless of age.

But as mentioned, these students (no matter the age) had just learned the newest of the newest of everything, and could jump in and do anything the employer was looking for, as well as bring in some fresh new ideas.

Now, it could be that once the student arrived, and they realized the candidate was 53 years old, they might have been surprised - but for these entry level jobs, I doubt it made any major difference at that point.

As far as 5, 10 years down the line, well - that is another question. I can only hope the older students kept current and the employers were happy to have someone reliable and up to date on the staff.

Of course. There is ageism in almost every occupation. Why should this one be any different?

I think this depends on the environment you work in. In London, you better damn well concentrate on being a graphic designer – and a specialised one at that – for people to take you seriously. If you rock up saying you can do a bit of this and a bit of that, people won’t think you’re skilled enough in any one area. Foreigners trying to get work on London are often shocked that their portfolios get knocked back because they’ve dabbled in too many branches of design.

I think it’s distinctly noticeable in design, where people are expected to be ‘trendy’, for wont of a better word.