Top 10 Issues Graphic Designers Will Face in 2014

The world of design is ever-evolving, which is why staying abreast of design trends and changes in the marketplace is so critical to your success as a designer. Whether you work for a design firm or for yourself as a freelance designer, you should be prepared for upcoming challenges. To help you prepare, here are the top 10 issues web designers and graphic designers will face in 2014. Are you ready for them?

1. Employed or self-employed?

Being employed by a graphic design firm means a steady paycheck and benefits such as health insurance and paid vacation. When the work day is over, it’s over, but the tradeoff is an income ceiling. Working as a freelancer offers more freedom and the potential for greater income, but has greater risks. With the impending changes in health insurance, the freelance lifestyle could become more expensive than ever before, causing many freelancers to seek full-time employment for the benefits.

2. Niche markets

Most graphic designers I know are jacks of all trades; they design anything they can get paid for. In 2014, the more you specialize your offering, the easier it will be to stand out from your competitors and land better, higher-paying clients. Pick your pony and ride it to success.

3. Continuing education

Remember those “The More You Know” commercials that used to interrupt your Saturday morning cartoons? Well, they were on to something. As the world of design continues to evolve to accommodate new marketing tactics and advanced technologies, so too must your knowledge of design and how it relates to marketing and development evolve. In 2014, you should continue to seek out opportunities to expand your knowledge of design in your chosen discipline.

4. Marketplace value

Competition from designers who charge far less than you – especially foreign designers – can threaten your ability to win new clients. In 2014, you should become an expert at selling not only the quality of your design work, but the value in your understanding of your clients’ markets.

5. Outsourcing

If you’re a freelancer, there is a limit to how much you can charge (at least, that clients are willing to pay), and there are only so many hours in the day. If you want to maximize your income, it’s time to consider outsourcing work to other talented designers. Perhaps you should adopt the agency approach?

6. Add-on services

Another great way to increase your income is to partner with companies that can provide complementary services. This will become more important than ever in 2014, as busy small businesses want to pass off their design projects and not have to contract with several companies to get them done. For this reason, it behooves you to establish partnerships with developers and printers and add your fee on top of any work they perform. White label partners allow you to put all work under your name.

7. Passive income

The cost of living continues to increase, yet you continue to face stiff competition in pricing. Specializing can help you charge more, but you can also take advantage of passive income opportunities such as selling your designs on posters, shirts, coffee mugs, and more. Devote some time each week to a new design you can sell via online product marketplaces such as Zazzle.

8. Pay raises

Whether you work for a design firm or are a freelancer, you need to work in annual pay raises, at minimum. Ask your employer for a raise; or, if you’re a freelancer, increase your fees by a set percentage every year to make up for inflation and increased cost-of-living expenses.

9. Trends vs. innovation

As noted, understanding and being able to apply contemporary design trends will land you more work and keep clients happy. At the same time, you need to differentiate yourself as a designer. How will you balance design trends vs. design innovation?

10. Value perception

It’s unfortunate, but graphic designers have been devalued by the same digital world that has created so many opportunities. Supply and demand dictates that marketplace, and designers are a dime a dozen online. That’s why it’s so important for you to work to change the perception of designers – or, at least, your own design work. It’s critical to demonstrate the value of what you do to your clients’ overall goals in order to lay a foundation for long-term success.

Guest Author Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint.

Useful Links: Online Education, HTMLDevConf slides, Twitter counts

An Honest Look at Online Education is helpful and comprehensive.

A collection of links to slide decks from the HTML5 Developer Conference.

Assessing My Personal Gender Bias on Twitter is a terrific post by Terence Eden. Are you ready to put some arithmetic to your gender bias?

Useful Links: OpenAIR, Queer History, Lucidpress

If you’ve never been on a team designing a site in one of Knowbilities OpenAIR events, it’s a great experience. You learn a lot about accessibility and have a good time. They still need 3 teams for this year’s event.

A Queer History of Computing at Rhizome is the first of five posts in a series. The first post is about Alan Turing, an English mathematician who is considered by many to be the father of computer science. This is a fantastic project, I hope educators find and use all five posts in the series. The series will be all men. A similar project on queer women would be wonderful, too.

Collaboratively Create Multimedia Documents With Lucidpress. This multimedia tool works with Google docs but is “slicker” and is free for students and teachers.

Useful links: Gender gap, Jenn Lukas, Age gap

Hillary Clinton Announces Partnership to Help 5 Million Women and Girls is a recent post of mine at BlogHer about Intel and World Pulse teaming up to expand digital literacy skills for girls.

Ladies in Tech with Jenn Lukas at CTRL+CLICK CAST.

Designing User Interfaces for Older Adults: Myth Busters is SO RIGHT. The idea that older people don’t understand anything is SO WRONG. Here is wisdom from UX Matters.

Ultimate Mentor Adventure for Girls in STEM

[Reprinted from Old Ain’t Dead.]

Marvel is doing something marvelous for girls who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) around the release of Thor: The Dark World. The program is called Ultimate Mentor Adventure. Here’s how it works.

Ultimate Mentor Adventure promo
Natalie Portman in the Ultimate Mentor Adventure promo

Natalie Portman, who plays Jane Foster, an astrophysicist, in Thor: The Dark World describes the program in a video you can see here.

  • Girls from the U.S. in grades 9 – 12 can apply. The minimum age is 14.
  • Each girl is connected to a mentor who is working in a field in which the girl is interested.
  • The girl interviews the mentor and makes a video.
  • The videos are entered in the contest.
  • The winner gets to go to the opening of Thor: The Dark World in California and see the video they made shown along with the film. The winner also gets to go behind the scenes at the movie.

A girl really cannot lose by participating in this mentor adventure. Just by participating she gets to meet a woman in a position she wants to know more about. The girls get help finding the mentors and making the videos. Everyone who participates will have a positive experience whether she wins or not.

Kudos to Marvel for this brilliant idea.


Useful links: Bing search, Creative JS, iPad Classroom

bing cherry

Bing is touting some new search results tech that happens on it’s page zero search. Search Engline Land explains all about it.

Here’s a blog with JavaScripts, tutorials and articles that might help you. Creative JS.

The iPad Classroom is a daily that might give you some good teaching ideas. Any daily can be subscribed to, including the one I curate, Women in Web Education.

Useful links: Women, @media queries, Responsive, Twitter in Edu

What Women Don’t Want is from Ladybits. Spoiler alert – women don’t want TitStare.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Media Queries is an excellent recap of the UX Summit closing session.

Responsive Design is Not About Screen Sizes Anymore is from Speckyboy.

Using Twitter Effectively in Education is a talk from Alec Couros.