Why aren’t more companies hiring junior designers?
“Lack of experience” is usually the main objection alongside a few other qualified concerns, such as collaboration with engineers, communication with stakeholders, and resources to effectively onboard.
However, junior designers are often underestimated on the value potential and knowledge they posses and can contribute back to an organization. Lack of experience does not equate to lack of value.
In most instances, when the pros and cons are weighed, junior designers offer more upside than risk. In fact, junior designers are critical to a diverse and healthy design team.
The advantages of hiring junior designers
- Perspective. Young designers bring a powerful shift in perspective that is often invaluable to the design process
- Junior designers increase team diversity, considering a product from all angles and experiences
- Junior designers are often bootcamp-certified and possess the skill needed for effective everyday work
- Junior designers are cost-effective from a business standpoint, as well as an investment in human capital
A fresh perspective
The closer you get to a product, the less you see. Just like proof reading your own work, spending enough time with the same product begins to limit core functions of a design team, such as innovation, curiosity, and observation.
When you hire a junior designer, you are hiring a fresh perspective. For many reasons, a less experienced eye is more powerful because it sees the product in a fresh light. Innovation flourishes where natural divergent thinking roams free.
A Design Executive friend of my mine once quipped…
Ask a junior designer to do an impossible design task and they will do it. Ask a senior designer to do the same design task and they will tell you it is “impossible.”
Perhaps the task is actually impossible… but sometimes a lack of experience is a powerful route to new ideas.
A young perspective is not valued for the hours of training it has received, but rather for the new light it shines on a product, a team, and a company.
Application: Put more reliance on junior designers and empower them to articulate their perspective with autonomy. Giving young designers this freedom will often yield a new way of looking at a problem, process, or solution.
Time and experience breed habits and routines. In terms of design, we often try to design based on what has worked in the past and we can get into the habit of employing certain methods over and over.
The risk is that we slow our own learning and curiosity. Even worse, we may stop questioning every design decision that we have ever made.
The latter is a healthy practice in order to avoid personal bias.
Since junior designers are truly experimenting with a new frontier, they offer a healthy critique of accepted design.
junior designers also require more feedback than senior designers which ramps up collaboration and stimulates team growth. The more a team grows together, the better they can design together.
Application: Hire junior designers
It is important not to confuse experience with skill or raw talent. Most junior designers have ample experience with the design process through bootcamps and personal exploration into tools, techniques, and best practices.
Especially when considering a junior designers aptitude for collaboration and communication, take a look at past professional and academic experience.
Collaboration is baked into everyday life and the experience can often be found if you know where to look for validation.
It seems that many product companies are afraid that a designer will not know how to interact with a development team, yet many junior designers are closet coders and are perfectly equipped to be strong communicators.
Application: Don’t take points off for lack of experience. Judge a designer based off of their skill and accomplishments, investing in aptitude.
As a business, it makes sense to hire effective talent at a cheaper rate in order to maintain a well-rounded and efficient team.
Junior level labor is cheaper in terms of business cost per hour. So if the a team wants an efficient cost outcome for a project, it makes sense to employ a mix of designer levels.
For example, imagine you have two teams of designers tasked with solving the same design problem.
Team A has two senior designers ($110,000 yearly salary) and spends 80 hours on the task. Time is split evenly between designers.
Team B has a senior ($110,000 yearly salary) and a junior designer ($70,000 yearly salary) and spends 100 hours on the task. Time is split 30/70 respectively.
Team A cost - Team B cost = cost savings for going with Team B
$4230.4 - ($1586.4 + $2355.5) = $288.5
In this example, Team B spends 25% more time on the solution than Team A but saves the company around 7% of the cost without sacrificing the quality of outcome.
Application: Hire more junior designers
Junior designers may lack experience and guarantees, but they often have significantly more to offer than the potential risk.
At heart, junior designers are critical to the health of a design team if the team wants diversity in perspective, an expansion of skill and collaboration, and a cost-efficient product.