What am I going to do with my life?

It’s been over week since I read this headline and every time I think of it, I smile.

Why? Because, like many other industries, ageism is rife in the creative sector.

Kinda makes sense because designers aren’t known for career longevity. Sure, we’ve a few notables like Milton Glaser and Paula Sher, but many of my colleagues – especially women – around when I started my career are no longer part of the design industry.

Why is that so?

One reason may be the energy and enthusiasm needed to stay relevant.
That need is relentless and it can lead to burnout.

The World Health Organisation has recognised burnout as a mental health issue.

In an industry where we know designers are often guilty of running toward the bright and the shiny, Greg and I work hard at staying relevant and current. We’re constantly researching new and better ways of doing things. And we’re proud of our careers where we’ve continually reinvigorated our knowledge and our business.

And it’s not just to keep ourselves interested, it’s what we do: in fact, much of our mentoring is helping design studio / agency owners reassess and reinvent their business and their offer.

Staying relevant doesn’t mean staying up-to-date with every new tool or technique, but it does mean working hard to understand your onlyness: what you can offer employers/clients others cannot. It’s understanding what makes you distinctive and building a business around it.

So what?

All that said, sometimes our industry just stops you in your tracks and saps your confidence. Just last week I mentioned to a fellow designer we were planning a pilgrimage to The Design Conference. The statement was met with a quizzical face … I was subtly advised they thought it was a conference for younger designers.

Where does that view come from?
It’s certainly not the vibe I get from it’s founder, Matthew Haynes.
And it’s certainly not the vibe I get from speakers.

I was a bit dumbfounded and just didn’t think fast enough.
My reply should have been…
I have to go … I need to find out what I am going to do with my life … I’m only 62. 😉


Got a comment/question? As always, happy to discuss further, just email.

Carol Mackay
Co-founder Design Business Council.

We help designers build confidence in their business decision-making skills

We do that by
• supporting creatives to learn management skills
• helping business owners identify and target better clients
• introducing tools and systems to increase a studio’s productivity, and
• focusing on a sustainable work/life balance.
We share our knowledge in a library of free resources, workshops, group and one-on-one mentoring.

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About Carol Mackay

After 30+ years running a graphic design firm, Carol pivoted from client-focused projects to consult to the design industry.

Carol’s special power has always been an ability to use design to translate difficult to understand or complex messages. She believes design brings clarity to complex issues. From clarity comes understanding, and understanding leads to knowledge.

As a designer she used those skills with clients like The Magistrates, County and Supreme Courts; Ombudsman schemes and Emergency Service agencies. At DBC she uses the same skills … she helps designers de-mystify the complexities of managing a small business.

Outside of DBC Carol mentors graduates and is a Board member at Never Not Creative, a community of creatives pushing for change in the creative industry.

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