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The Rapidly Disappearing Business of Design
design-decline

By almost every measure, 2014 was a breakthrough year for design and big business. Any list of highlights would include John Maeda joining the ranks of Kleiner Perkins as a partner, Jony Ive re-asserting Apple’s product vision and IBM rapidly building the largest design team on the planet. Beyond all of the hype, we can measure the rise of design in terms of dollars invested by major corporations in design talent. In 2014, design went to the bank! The recent departure of Todd Simmons—the top creative at arguably the most celebrated brand agency in the world, Wolff Olins—for the leadership team at IBM is a fitting bookend to the year.

So, you might ask yourself why leading design firms are contracting or exiting the business just when it has become more relevant than ever to corporate America.

Adaptive Path, a bay area pioneer in User Experience Design (UX), recently exited the business, finding greener pastures as the in-house design agency for Capital One. Smart Design, a pioneer in design entrepreneurship through its groundbreaking work with OXO in the ’90s, recently closed its SF office.

Consolidation is nothing new for creative industries like advertising, which is dominated by a few large holding companies. But for the first time, in 2014 we saw Fortune 500 companies—primarily big banks and IT firms—grabbing the biggest share of the design talent pool.

What does this mean for the future of design as an independent field of practice...

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