Should you specialize in a niche or be a multidisciplinary designer?

In the last few years, I’ve seen an increase of designers that were pushed to specialize in a single niche. This was done in order to better segment the design industry, creating more jobs, less competition as well as more design courses and university specializations, while also making it more easy for potential employers or clients to understand what you do. Well you might ask, isn’t this a good thing? the answer depends on your experience.

 

What are the advantages of being a specialized niche designer?

  • it means you can become a niche expert quite easily
  • you can get familiar with that niche faster by learning what works and doesn’t work directly from college or uni’
  • you can find a job faster by having less competition
  • you build a solid portfolio within that niche
  • you are really passionate and  enjoy doing that type of work 

 

The Disadvantages:

  • it means you need to keep up constantly with the trends in that niche or get left behind
  • you probably won’t use your full creative power, due to not exploring and applying other principles that you learn from working in other niches
  • you will only be asked to do certain things
  • it can become dull doing the same thing over and over again, without expressing yourself in new ways and taking into consideration some niche projects can take up to 6 months, well you can see it can be quite boring
  • you can lose your job due to shifts in the market, potentially making your job obsolete, having to start over.
  • you won’t be a pure niche specialist for long, since if you have to start over you will carry all that knowledge with you and apply it on future projects or design niches.

 

In the end by working in the industry, you will slowly adapt to new trends, build a solid knowledge that on the long run will still transform you into a multi-disciplinary designer. In today’s industry we’re seeing graphic designer migrating to web design or motion design, web-designers migrating to UX design or mobile design which leads to using the knowledge they’ve gathered in other niches, so being a specialized designer is just a temporary thing that let’s you focus on the thing you love.

 

Advantages of a versatile or a multi-disciplinary designer:

  • you can work with the client directly, explaining them what works and what doesn’t and why you or the development team chose that, without having to have a second person in the room explaining the tech side of the work.
  • you can manage a full team of designers or launch a full product from start to finish with the team or by yourself.
  • you understand how to do things fast & efficiently by knowing what software can be used to do what, how much time it will take in software X compared to software Y, how much will it take for it to be ready for production
  • you can help people from different departments achieve better or faster results or by providing tips
  • you won’t get bored since you will always do interesting things that you love
  • you spend less time going back & forth between departments asking if that’s ok or possible and thus actually spend more time designing, coming up with better solutions
  • you are one step closer towards being a creative director, project lead or design director
  • you have a solid knowledge of all aspects of design that you’ve gathered across the years, making you a valuable person that can apply knowledge from different niches to the existing one
  • you can always shift industries if a niche is currently struggling
  • you know exactly what works and doesn’t work in the industry, making it easy to apply things that actually work or  launch your own web-app that will fix those issues
  • you can make passive income from an industry, while working in a completely different one
  • you’re actually a design lover, no person in his right mind will spend that many hours designing and learning so many things, if they didn’t love it… so for that thing along I salute all my fellow multidisciplinary designers out there

 

Disadvantages:

  • you can work a lot of hours and read a lot to keep up with things
  • you won’t have enough space on your business cards to put all the titles or roles
  • you find jobs harder due to potential employers not understanding your true value, giving the impression that you’re mediocre at everything instead of actually having in-depth knowledge that they can benefit from.

 

What does this mean for your clients or studio?

It means that your clients or your studio, will need to hire a larger amount of designers to tackle a project, it means that the designers will probably be required to do a single thing, which can lead to dullness and a lack of creativity from the designer. Some designers will never learn how to code, learn graphic design or understand how usability, marketing or even how color can influence people.

Meaning they will push the same type of quality content, without pushing themselves or finding creative approaches to their designs, thus possibly building a much better experience and earn some awards for the studio or client, which translates into brand value and trust.

 

So should you specialize or not?

If your fresh after graduation then yes, do stick to what you’ve learned however try to learn more about other areas of design, since in the end you will most likely become a multidisciplinary designer, the only difference is that it can take a lot more years and work if you rely only on what you learn in the studio or from other colleagues.

 If you’ve been in the industry for over 5 years, then by do all means try to experiment with other niches, there are a lot of niches where designers can learn from and apply their knowledge to create better things, heck even change your industry completely by learning about psychology, architecture , interior design , marketing, photography, 3d. All these industry are tied to the design industry and having some knowledge in these area will help you identify your strengths and weakness, while increasing the rate and quality of your projects.

Gradinar Razvan
Gradinar Razvan
I've been in the industry for over 9 years and as a Senior Designer I've managed to gather a solid knowledge in a wide variety of fields such as UX, graphic & web design, architecture visualization as well as earning some awards & recognitions. Nowadays I work with clients from across the world doing all of the above, depending on the project & clients need. If you would like to know more about me feel free to view the about section of this website or visit my LinkedIn profile.
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