The sky’s the limit: The career of “in house” designers

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The 2nd Annual “Design, mode d’emploi” Forum was held on December 10, 2014 at the Paris Commodities Exchange. It was the chance to highlight the growing interest that businesses are showing in “in house” Designer career paths. This interest falls closely in line with the strategic relevance inherent in design. New career opportunities are popping up everywhere.

Years ago, a round table on the career opportunities available to “In house” Designers would have consisted of the ins and outs of successful cover letter writing, not to mention those of a winning resumé, and the fundamentals of an “In house” Designer’s “book” whose contents leave no doubt about the technical skill sets and competencies of designers on the lookout for the perfect job. The one organized by the Agency for the Promotion of Industrial Creation (APCI*) and led by Antoinette Lemens* revealed something of a quite different nature. For starters, the maturity and responsibility of those who participated in the round table made for a tremendous contrast. We used to only see senior designers who had come to share, for the most part, their technical experience with a fleeting word or two on the importance of teamwork or a few general remarks on the difficulties of working in a corporate setting. In attendance at the round table were four (4) HR directors and managers, dedicated to bringing on board new talent and perfectly aware that the hiring process is a career-driven one, offering both mid- and long-term growth opportunities in companies that, on the whole, don’t readily or systematically think to designate positions of responsibility to designers. The scope of competencies has, as a result, expanded to include management, leadership and an understanding of what is at stake, as well as the economic contexts wherein companies either prosper or perish. Going forward, management positions will be up for grabs for engineers and designers alike.

Acknowledging that the field of design, too, is confronted with the same obstacles remains a no-brainer. Rehashing talk around design being a strategic discipline and indispensable on the innovation front for companies with their mind on the future just doesn’t cut it anymore. The same goes for companies having to invest in design for the purposes of becoming competitive, staying ahead of the competition and asserting their identity and brand. The time has now come to walk the talk. Management positions that emphasize design’s leverage in corporate strategy now need to be not only available, but accessible to designers. Ability, desire, ambition. Without these, design and designers are destined to be reduced to mere “doing” and “doers”, which and whom, albeit praiseworthy, ultimately fall short when tackling the challenges facing companies. The fine line between ambition and duty enables us to “express loud and clear” among the ranks of hierarchy design’s purpose in practice and potency.

Several years ago, Armand Hatchuel said “No engineer has ever deprived himself from being a boss, so why should a designer?” It is no longer about pushing buttons for the sake of pushing buttons, but rather a necessity, if not a duty. Companies are slowly but surely waking up to the reality that designers cannot stay locked up in cross-functional, creation-nurtured laboratories forever and excluded from the strategic decision-making process. We need to make them leadership-ready. Why? For the simple reason that they are Designers.


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