This insight was added because several of the interviewees stated that, if the F50 companies decided all at once to hire a new designer for an executive position in their C-suite, they would have a very hard time because there were not enough qualified designers with the right experience in the market, that many of the most qualified designers leave the workplace in the 45-50 age group to pursue personal projects.
While we don’t have a lot of data to explain this scarcity of qualified designers, there are several pieces of data. One is the number of designers being trained and launched into the market in 2017, just in US colleges, 20.127 Bachelor degree graduates (1st/ 2nd major) in design & Applied Arts. There is data suggesting that F500 may be employing directly around 500.000 designers worldwide, not counting all the external design subcontractors and agencies, an average ratio of 1:200 employees. In the graphic/ visual design domains there is data that the drop off rate for full-time employees working in-house or at an agency is around the four-year mark, which is when many designers reportedly tend to stagnate.
Design leaders have long complained that they cannot find the right talent, suggesting that there is indeed a scarcity and the reasons might be tied to the complexity of the job to be done. One thing we believe we can establish, it is that scarcity might be the culmination of other insights before this, starting with a lack of desire to be in a C-suite position, followed by lack of investment in the right preparation, not enough exposure to experience and consequent lack of interest in fighting for the top positions when offered the access. If indeed there is a scarcity of designers ready to take on this role, then the industry will resort to others that, despite not being trained designers have demonstrated that they can learn just enough to become great design managers.