Where do the old designers go?

During my morning perusal of the internet, where I enjoy a coffee and the silence of an empty office, I came across a post on Designer News, asking the age old question; "Where do designers see themselves when they get older?"

It's a good question, and something which I've been thinking about more and more. Depending on which industry you work in, this has an answer set by the paths of previous designers. But if you work in Product Development, then you are the trailblazers – most of your role models are only now reaching their mid to late 30s.

Tobias van Schneider? I think he's only 31. Jessica Hische? 33. Dann Petty might be 35 by now. 

It strikes me there are two categories at work here. On the one hand we have the agency designers, who become Creative Directors, then Directors and Board Members. On the other hand we have an industry which is so young that the device which arguably spawned it (the iPhone) is itself only 10 years old.

When your job revolves around creating products which are enjoyed on the most part by younger audiences, using technology that requires the enthusiasm and vigour of youth to explore, what is the role of the "aging" designer? Do they have a role? And, is there any alternative to a role in C-Suite? 

The irony of working in the design industry is that with more experience comes less execution and more direction. Being hands on is, for most of us, the reason we got into this and what drives us each day. Who doesn't love firing up Spotify, putting on some Creedence and losing half a day to Illustrator? 

In an industry where the barrier to entry is lowering all of the time, your experience is what will add value. As long as you keep demonstrating your value (be that by mentoring team members, translating client feedback in actionable design, or simply understanding typography) then I think you'll be fine. 

We're not all going to turn into Jony Ive or Massimo Vignelli, but it doesn't mean that at 54 you're going to be put out to pasture.

Tom Wood