Are designers in real danger in the event of another economic collapse (2018 one)?

5 years ago from , Product Designer

In the economic world people are raising concerns about the market and its imminent downfall, part of the explanation you can find in this video but there are many others like this one.

Are there any designers amongst us that went through the crysis in 2008 that can share their experiences? Layoffs, positions available at the time, any other insight. We might be able to have a real and constructive discussion about this.


  • Kristjan Gomboc, 5 years ago

    Although the video you posted is a bit pushing it - the question is still a very very relevant one and good to be asked.

    Fact is, that the sun can't always shine. There has to be rain. And even if we say there will be no global storm as in 2007 (because we are smarter now) it can very fast happen that there is a "local" crisis. It's even happening today (e.g. Venezuela, Turkey...). And it's good that one is prepared to some degree.

    I guess there is no silver bullet, but I can share my thoughts, experience and pro-cations.

    So, in how much in "danger" one is depends on his line of "design" work, location and industry. E.g.: when times get hard, some industries suffer more then others. People start cutting on not necessary expenses. Like vacations, going out, spa, construction... these business then try to cut cost as much as possible. Also on design. Now as they say: there is always a silver lining. Good companies know that good customer experience is their key differentiator. So if they want to ride it out, they have to invest here to get (or keep) their share of customers which now may run a bit more scare. They will still negotiate hard to get the best ROI, but they are prepared to invest.

    How to prepare for this situation:

    • In case you are doing a lot of freelance visual design work for SMBs work hard on your relations (one should do that always - but still, pointing out). It will hit them first and they will look for options to go cheaper. Good relations are key that they will at least talk to you and not straight drop you. Be prepared you will have to lower you rates (but say it's temporary) and on your side optimize the process. If they pay less, they should be prepared to get less. E.g. instead of 5 iterations only 3. Good thing is, if you manage to "ride it out" with such clients, you will get even more business later on. Because the one that survive, they grow when sun shines again :) Note: I found it hard to acquire new clients in such situation in any other way then word of mouth.

    • If you are an employee in any size of a company, always ensure that having you around is good ROI. I will not write how, there's a lot of stuff out there on this topic. To make it short: solve real problems, be efficient, and show it off (e.g. after a project have make a presentation, show the business impact...). This also goes for freelancers, but I found that for internal employees it's somehow more relevant.

    • Be prepared to be versatile. Invest in yourself now, learn new things. Like the saying goes, it's not the strongest of the species that survives... It's the one that is most adaptable to change. In a crisis there is always some change. People are either exploring new business, dropping existing ones, org changes... And maybe in this you will get ask to do something you haven't yet or are not as comfortable with. E.g.: we need a PO but can't hire someone because of tight budget... can you jump in? Until now we done apps, we think we need AR stuff... can you do it? Can you work remote? Can you not work remote and actually come to the office?

    • Pro tip: People and companies panic when times are bad. Decisions are not often rational. Don't let that throw you of beat. Stay calm, breath, plan, execute. In my experience people like to be surrounded by steady rocks. And it just makes more sense to not panic :)

    Now this is all from professional standpoint. There is also some financial stuff you should think about. Like: diversify your savings, always have enough reserve for few months, know exactly what cost you can slash in case of emergency...live lean. There is a lot of these tips written online. I will not go into deep. What I personally practice though and I don't see so often as advice is the following: Every year I take some time and think what all could go wrong with our (household) finances. E.g.: one looses his job... two loose it...our savings are gone due to emergency... our currency goes haywire... And then I make a rudimental plan how we would react in that case and see if we are prepared for it. If we are not, that's part of the financial objective for that year.

    When I was a student our family was through a crisis. It hit me as a freelancer and even more our family business. Haven't we been so catch by surprise, it would have been half so hard.

    When I moved with my GF to a new place, we were again hit with a rainy day - both were suddenly without a job. Just this time, we discussed before how we would react in such situation. The situation was still not nice and we had some not perfect sleep. But quite honestly, it was half as bad - every day when we woke up, we knew what to do and we did not panic. We went through it and sun started to shine again :)

    Long story short: I don't believe anyone can answer if designers are per se in danger or not. Even less when there will be a crisis or recession or whatever. I also don't believe it matters. My advice is that one actually thinks about the possibility things can go wrong and is at least to some degree prepared for that.

    Hope my half-essay is of any of help.

    Note: I used a lot of "you". I meant any designer out there, not you as the one asking the question :)

    9 points
    • Emanuel S., 5 years ago

      Kristjan you are beautiful! Thank you for taking the time to write this elaborate POV, took some notes out of it!

      2 points
  • Mark Horgan, 5 years ago

    Be weary of what you read or watch in the media about the next financial crisis. Since 2008 the media has been full of predictions of the next crash. I don't think we will have another financial crisis on the scale of 2008 so soon but a recession is due. They generally occur every 10 years but some say it won't arrive until 2020.

    2 points
    • Emanuel S., 5 years ago

      How will design be affected in your opinion?

      0 points
    • Aaron Wears Many HatsAaron Wears Many Hats, 5 years ago

      So I work in the Fintech sphere with our company, and it's interesting that there's so much back-and-forth about this.

      The solutions that allowed the USD to stay relatively afloat during the '08 collapse did nothing but push back the date where the economy will undergo a substantial recession. The position we're in at my company is that we assume 2015-2020 will be the period where a collapse could occur again.

      Unfortunately, the triggers are difficult to predict, and something could rock the boat in 12 months, or it might be 12 years. But it certainly is coming.

      How would you be affected? Well, if you don't have much in the way of savings, if you rent, or if you have a mortgage, you might be facing some troubled waters ahead. I would be willing to bet a large number of freelancers will be caught short.

      Best bet is to keep some savings at hand, and don't over encumber yourself with debt. This is pretty classic financial advice, of course... As Mark said, market crashes do tend to happen in cycles, so your best bet is just to manage your finances as well as you can.

      4 points
      • Emanuel S., 5 years ago

        This is exactly the kind of reply I was looking for, I think others will appreciate you taking the time to explain!

        0 points
  • Matt SharpeMatt Sharpe, 5 years ago

    I think every designer should read the Meadows report "Limits to Growth" published in 1972. In the internet and high-tech field, things are looking really bad when you see how crucial rare earth metals are rapidly running low. The oil production peak is announced around 2020 , and the IMF warned about a big financial crisis due to the global debt... We're following one of the most pessimistic predictions of the Meadows report, that foresee a collapse of our thermo-industrial society around 2030. The internet won't last very long....

    1 point
    • Aaron Wears Many HatsAaron Wears Many Hats, 5 years ago

      My late grandmother once told me that you need skills on one of four crucial areas - Food production, Healthcare, Education or Construction. Regardless of what goes down in the world, you'll always be able to survive with a skillset in these fields.

      You're spot on though - when we eventually hit peak late-stage capitalism and the economy suddenly shits the bed, there won't be much work for people who's only skill is to make banner ads etc...

      0 points
  • Dean HaydenDean Hayden, 5 years ago

    Hmmm. I would take that video with a massive pinch of salt. YouTube is opinion, rarely is it fact.

    1 point
  • Andrew C, 5 years ago

    Most fintechs start off as accounting or some such service and fail to scale and eventually become subprime lenders. This might be a risk if people default on their loans. But even then there's a lot of companies so any losses would be diversified.

    The tech ecosystem nowadays is built upon (largely) service. People sign up and pay for a service. Unless someone can point to where a catastrophic downturn would come from it's probably bs.

    0 points
  • Peerapat LiaoPeerapat Liao, 5 years ago

    No, as long as we can work as freelancing anywhere in the world. There're places always need good amount demand of designer.

    0 points