Is “Designed” in China the Next Big Thing?
Derek Tesciuba posted on February 28, 2014 |
Asia’s growing design industry could overtake an unhappy western workforce

A recent survey by design recruitment company CADagency indicates that the mood of designers in Great Britain is none too good. Around one in three respondents said they were underappreciated, undervalued and that their current role felt unrewarding.

With the majority of the designers surveyed aged from 25 to 44 and earning between $42,000 to $58,500 per year, we are talking about the core of the CAD design workforce being unhappy with either their compensation or their working environment; and if a designer is unhappy his or her creativity will likely suffer too.

With this in mind, let's look to China. Having long been a manufacturing center for western designs, noted by the predominance of the "Made in China" sticker, the country is also fast becoming a major design force.

China's Ministry Of Science and Technology, the government body that sets policy regarding the country's scientific and technical direction, has been encouraging huge growth in the fields of design and engineering. There are now over 400 design and engineering programs in Chinese schools and universities, graduating around 10,000 designers each year. What's more, between 2011 and 2012 Asia graduated over 780,000 engineers (compared to the 580,000 in the US and Europe).

Meanwhile, in North America CAD software companies are giving Middle Schools and High Schools millions of dollars in software licences every year, hoping to inspire a bright new generation of designers. They should be commended for this, though it is of note that many students are unable to take advantage of these licenses because their schools lack qualified CAD teachers.

As a result, the average designer in the US is in their late thirties, while the average designer in China or Asia is only 25 – suggesting the possibility of a "Designed in China" shift. With so much dissatisfaction in the industry already, however, US designers could soon find themselves competing with foreign designers for a dwindling number of positions; a problem that could easily lead to lower pay and even worse work environments.

Unless the world of design and engineering can be shaken up, inspiring western designers to recapture the innovative peaks of yesteryear and prioritize the education and training of a new batch of engineers, the design industry may easily go the same way as the west's once glorious manufacturing industry.


About the Author
Derek Tesciuba is the founder of CADagency, a specialist recruitment agency focused on the engineering and architectural industries.

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