Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Is Design Oversaturated?

Yes, but that may not be a bad thing.

Topher Gent
9 min readMar 17, 2022

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Decked out in designer sunglasses and an over-the-top leather jacket, superstar-designer Karim Rashid took to Facebook Live while walking down 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen. The 8 minute and 22-second video from October 2021 features Rashid, walking and talking into this phone camera, presenting concerns about design losing ground as a respected profession.

The point of his monologue has a lot to do with expressing that designers should be compensated appropriately despite an increase in supply. He suggests that we, as designers, need to work collectively to make sure that we only work on projects where the pay and treatment of designers are fair, ultimately keeping the quality of design at a high level. He ends by saying, “Let’s not be under-appreciated. Let’s not be underestimated. Let’s be rigorous. Let’s keep this profession alive.”

This sentiment comes from the notion that there seems to be an exponential growth of new designers coming out of design schools. Combine that with vast amounts of expanding technologies, high rates of copying, easy access to cheap (bad) design, and DIY, designers are outnumbered by all of these things that circumvent them. On its face, it looks like a supply and demand issue, where competition results in undercutting fees, and many designers are working for cheap, or sometimes free.

… Side Note: Please, designers and future designers: Do not work for free. Do not work for ‘exposure.’ And per Karim Rashid’s advice, do not work for royalties only, either.

… As another side note: I’ll point out the irony here because Karim Rashid’s studio has an unpaid internship program. But that’s for another story.

This all brings me to something that I have been thinking about a lot lately:

Is design oversaturated?

There are dozens of subcategories of design and architecture: landscape, environmental, interior, industrial, product, graphic, UI/UX, etc… a seemingly endless array of specialized ‘types.’ But because I am a designer who primarily works with objects, it should be said that I write this text from the standpoint of industrial design and the built environment.

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