Ageism in Design

March 28, 2021
2 min read

I have recently discovered that I’m now part of the 1% - not the one with the yachts, private planes, and international villas, but the group of creatives & designers over 60 currently still practicing.

According to the AIGA 2019 Design Census, the larger majority of working designers are between the ages of 20 and 35, dropping radically after the age of 50 and becoming almost extinct by the time they reach 60. And this is when the much talked about “ageism” comes into the picture. Does creativity diminish with age?

In a series of interviews conducted with men and women over 70, the most glaring discovery was that ‘being old’ had nothing to do with age, but rather, with the end of movement or creation. The moment you stop learning, teaching, running, dancing is the moment you officially accept old age (and with this moment comes depression, plus both mental and physical deterioration)

Although many people believe that creativity is exclusively associated with youth, scientific studies have shown that there are two types of creativity that can blossom at different points in a person’s life.

Conceptual Innovators tend to do their best work in their mid-twenties, because they challenge conventional wisdom and come up with new ideas before they are steeped in the conventions of their field. This can result in “lucky” discoveries. However, the other type of creativity comes from Experimenters, who take decades of trial and error and accumulated knowledge to make unusual connections, going beyond the conventions of their domain.

If it is wrong to conclude that creativity fades with age, then more importance should be given to the role that experience plays in the life of a designer. In the creative field, the tenets of design are timeless, so the more time that you spend applying them the better and more resourceful you can become.

Seasoned designers have a deeper historical knowledge of brands, their emotional intelligence has grown through the years of practice, they are more able to navigate and manage personalities and workplace politics and may feel more at ease making swift decisions in complex situations.

When you’re older, you’ve had more time to experience and process the world. Design is all about being able to relate to other people, and research has shown that your capacity for love and empathy increases with age and doesn’t ever decline.

So, let’s join the voices against ageism, our best days may just be ahead!

© 2024 Soubriet Byrne & Associates, Inc.