Technology-driven changes in advertising, marketing, communications, printing, and imaging have given designers a greater range of options. Designers can work on in-house design teams, for different types of agencies, or independently as  creative entrepreneurs. Here are a few trends shaping opportunities for designers.

Customer experience design is changing the role of advertising and web design agencies.

Customer experience design uses multiple online and offline channels to affect how customers discover a product, learn about it, buy it, and use it. The goal of delivering consistently great customer experiences is to build a base of loyal customers who recommend a company’s products to their friends and families.

Because customer experience design involves many types of direct interactions with customers, many companies rely on in-house design teams to develop, manage, and continuously refine the strategy.

As companies become less reliant on traditional advertising for branding, they do need agencies that can help manage complex projects, test how to use new technologies, or provide specialized skills. For example, some agencies specialize in “digital products” such as apps, websites, videos, and virtual reality experiences. Others support the design, execution, measurement, and analysis of integrated multi-channel marketing campaigns.

“Experiential graphic design” agencies work with architects and interior designers to incorporate signage, artwork, displays, and information kiosks into buildings and public spaces. Their mission is to ensure that visitors to stores, airports, museums, campuses, and offices have an experience in the physical environment that is just as positive as the online experience .

Recommended Reading

These articles help explain why the advertising agency has evolved.

“Are Branding Agencies Still Relevant?”
by Paul Woods, on

Woods contends the traditional top-down “brand-development” strategy is a waste of time: “Increasingly, a brand is defined by what a product actually delivers, not by how the marketers tell us how we should feel about it.” Many startups don’t use a “brand design process” and abstract principles to define a brand. Instead, they get the product to market and build a community of users. The users provide insights that shape how the product and brand evolve.

“Customer Experience is the Future of Design”
by Chuck Longanecker, UX Magazine

“Experience design (XD) is not just a medium, like an advertising campaign or online app, but rather a strategy to keep customers engaged with a brand through impactful interactions,” writes Longanecker. “It’s a strategy in which everyone in at the company, no matter their role, must be involved to deliver a unified customer experience. The idea is to wow customers at every point in their journey.”

“If Advertising Is So Great, Why Are We So Unhappy?”
by Ernie Schenck for Communications Arts

Schenk writes: “An increasing number of young creatives are turning not to advertising, but to companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, companies were creative freedom is virtually infinite, where their ideas are more likely to result in something tangible, and where, rightly or wrongly, there’s a sense of purpose – compared with the frequently suffocating atmosphere of agencies”

“Why It’s Time to Kill Advertising as We Know It and Start Building ‘StoryWorlds”
by Jason Zada in Adweek.

Zada urges ad agencies to think like Hollywood and hire “dreamers and executors” who can create story-worlds that play out a story narrative across multiple platforms. A collaborative team might include a producer, writer, director, designer, story architect, and technologist. In addition to creating TV commercials, they could produce live streaming events, virtual-reality experiences, experiential events, short series, feature films, museum exhibits and more.

Bluecadet Vincent Van Gogh Exhibit
Bluecadet produces interactive experiences and immersive environments for museums and cultural institutions. Shown here is one of the custom interactive surfaces in the immersive “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago in the spring of 2016. (

Functional printing technologies are creating fresh opportunities for designers.

Printing today involves much more than ink on paper. Today, digital printing and finishing equipment is used to custom decorate all sorts of 2D and 3D products, including displays, packaging, textiles, glass, ceramics, garments, signs, objects, and wallcoverings. Plus, 2D documents, photographs, and artwork can be digitally embellished with coatings that add surface textures.

The use of “fabrication printing” equipment by manufacturers, commercial printing firms, and design studios is creating new career paths in interior design, apparel design, surface design, experiential graphic design, and related fields.

Industrial inkjet printers such as the Durst Vetrocer uses specialized inks to print images and designs directly on glass for interior decor.
Industrial inkjet printers such as the Durst Rho Vetrocer use specialized inks to print images and designs directly on glass for interior decor. Photo: Durst Industrial

The demand for professionals who can design 3-dimensional objects will grow as 3D printers become bigger, faster, and suitable for making products on demand.  “Direct-to-shape” industrial inkjet printers are making it possible to custom decorate all sorts of objects, including packages, bottles, and 3D-printed objects.

As functional printing makes it possible to “mass-customize” all types of products, a growing number of designers will be able to license some of their designs for apparel, stationary, wall décor, and home furnishings. Or, they can open their own webstores and create their own brands of merchandise.

Recommended Reading

“How to Start Licensing Your Art (and Why You Should)
by Natasha Wescoat on Lateral Action blog

Artist Natasha Wescoat enjoys the extra income and exposure she gets from licensing some of her art. She suggests producing a mock-up catalog to show potential licensees how your designs would look on various products.

Mass-customization of marketing communications will require automating some graphic design and web design functions.

Personalization and customization are cornerstones of customer experience design. As companies gather and analyze more data about what each customer wants and needs, they can customize product offerings, services, and marketing communications to be useful, meaningful, and engaging instead of intrusive and annoying.

Whether personalized messages and customized designs are presented in printed materials or on a display screen, the volume of customized layouts will be far too massive to be individually executed and proofed.

Recommended Reading

“Designers: Robots Are Coming for Your Jobs”
by Mark Rolston,

“Advances in artificial intelligence will usher in a new regime of hyper-personalized designs and tools, a trend with which human designers cannot possibly hope to keep pace. Computers will be far more creative – fearlessly creative – than most humans…But most designers — those of us who tinker, iterate, and improve existing designs – must start thinking now about where we will fit into an industry that, in a few short years, will no longer need the bulk of our current labor.”

Khanec: Inkjet Changes Everything
by Heidi Tolliver Walker, The Digital Nirvana

High-speed and industrial inkjet printers will make it possible to print millions of items (direct-mail pieces, packages, or products) with different images, messages, and layers of personalization. Instead of proofing or inspecting each possible layout, designers will have to with IT professionals to ensure the data used for customization has been properly configured.

Taking Designs to Infinity and Beyond
by Vivian Cohen-Leisorek on the HP Indigo Digital Printing Blog

The HP SmartStream Mosaic program enables thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of designs to be created from a surprisingly limited number of original designs.


A campaign for Diet Coke put two million different bottles, each with a unique design, on supermarket shelves and restaurants. The designs were created with the Mosaic feature of HP SmartStream software.
A campaign for Diet Coke put two million different bottles, each with a unique design, on supermarket shelves and restaurants. The designs were created with the Mosaic feature of HP SmartStream software.

Designers can excel in traditional or emerging design disciplines or become highly adaptable creative technologists.

The “TechCreative” or creative technologist helps clients find creative ways to use emerging technologies to meet specific business objectives. They can lead technology-related projects from conception and design to execution.

But even if you would rather focus on the art of designing than the technology, the ability to communicate with the technology experts in IT departments will be important to the success of your projects.

As the roles of designers change, new job titles are likely to emerge. Futurist Amy Webb envisions new titles such as automation experience designer, human-machine persona designer, augmented reality designer, neural virtual experience designer, wearables designers, drone experience designer, and chief design officer.

Recommended Reading

“Futurist Amy Webb’s Predictions on Where the Creative Industry is Headed”
by The Creative Group

According to Amy Webb: “While you don’t need to master HTML5, it would be wise for everyone in the creative field to have enough knowledge of the technical lexicon to be able to have an informed conversation. Technology will continue to intersect with design. Those in creative fields need to be conversant in both design and technology, even if they aren’t experts.”

“Meet the TechCreative”
by the Semper International staffing agency

Demand is growing for TechCreatives who can not only design artistic ideas but also shepherd them across various mediums and technologies through the implementation and execution stages of an idea or project.