What does a career in design look like today?

An obsession with youth and quick progression is making it harder and harder to grow old in design. Here, Lisa Hassell explores why this is happening and the negative impact it has on the profession

Earlier this year Elizabeth Carey Smith, a Design and Creative Director in New York, sparked discussion on Twitter when she shared her concerns about a youth-focused job market and the resulting damage this could be doing to the creative industry.

“More and more, I’ve noticed job postings for director-level creatives that only require 6+ years of experience.” she wrote. “Why are we rushing through the development of leaders? What significant experience do 28 year-olds bring to the table? If you’re a Creative Director at 30, what’s your role at 50?”

When CR spoke with Smith, she talked about the underlying issue of job titles and a lack of consistency across the board. “What I’ve been noticing is that there are a lot of people who work at smaller businesses and firms whose titles say ‘Creative Director’ except they’re not directing anybody – there’s nobody on the staff. So that I don’t totally understand. It’s like, ‘we don’t have a lot of money, we want to put you in charge of our brand, we don’t have anything else to give you, so we’re going to give you this title and down the track you can manage a team when we have more money’…. That’s what’s happening with titles, which is why we have a lot of people with ‘Creative Director’ on their resume, and they’re 27 years old, but they’re not necessarily performing the traditionally understood duties of a director.”

When I hear of creative directors who are 27 years old I think, what life experience are you bringing to the table?

Smith argues that whilst it’s hard to compare the responsibilities of one creative director working in advertising to another at a smaller agency, the components of a creative director should include enough experience to be able to apply a lot of different personal experiences – such as working with clients, presenting, pitching and taking responsibility for people who work on your team.