It’s been a few weeks now, so you may have forgotten that many of you filled in a brief survey when I joined GraphicDesign& founders Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright at TYPO London in October. I, on the other hand, have been sifting through your responses – 181 of them, to be exact – with great interest, and some surprise.
Who could have predicted, for instance, that fully two-thirds of respondents – 67% – would be women? While this may well reflect the overall gender breakdown of the conference, it is equally likely to reflect self-selection on the part of female conference attendees, or a greater tendency on our parts – as women – to distribute the survey to women rather than men! We are less likely to have influenced whether UK citizens or people from other parts of the world got the survey so here, the split was nearly equal, with Brits accounting for 49% of the 181 respondents and the international crowd for 51%.
Of the 89 British respondents, an overwhelming majority were left-leaning in their political affiliations. One-third reported having voted Labour in the last general election, 17% Lib Dem and 14% Green, compared to just 6% who reported voting Conservative. Likely reflecting the high proportion of students – students accounted for over half of those surveyed – 28% of British respondents reported that they hadn’t voted in the last election. This data begs the question: are designers generally a liberal bunch, or did the theme ‘Social’ appeal particularly to liberal designers? But this in itself is a simplistic, and misleading, set of propositions. Statistically speaking, people who choose, and are able, to attend a conference in London – whether British or international – are more likely to be from urban areas, which tend to vote liberally. Thus, we’d predict similar results with regard to political affiliation at both the TYPO Berlin and TYPO San Francisco conferences too.
Likewise, it’s impossible to say for certain why a staggering majority of respondents – 90% – affirmed that design bears a social responsibility and that designers should be concerned about the messages they shape. Did the conference theme draw exclusively socially-conscious designers to TYPO London? Did we happen upon the 181 designers who are fervently committed to the social impact of design? Did the survey, in asking so directly about social consciousness in design, prime respondents to answer in the affirmative? Only one brave individual admitted to thinking that designers shouldn’t be concerned about the messages they shape. Interestingly, though, of the respondents who answered ‘yes’ to both questions, 32% had nevertheless worked for clients whose business practices or political aims they disagreed with.
On success, the results were more decisive. Personal satisfaction was overwhelmingly reported as the most important factor in success, with 60% of respondents ranking it first or second. Social value and client satisfaction were a close second and third – 44% and 43% ranked these first or second, respectively. Appropriately for such a socially concerned sample of designers, the least important factor in success was career advancement.
Many thanks to those of you who agreed to be contacted and/or interviewed in the future – I look forward to involving you in my extended research on designers, which will be published by GraphicDesign& as a GraphicDesign& Social Science title next year.
– Nikandre Kopcke