The heyday of product design is over!

We had a good run for a decade, but a new era is coming

Image source: Canva Pro

2023, the golden age of user experience design has ended!

Poof. Over.

This is the hard truth.

UX is dead!

Lots of articles claim this recently. I was considering titling this article with those words.

You probably would’ve thought, ‘Not another it’s dead claim!

UX design isn’t dead, product design isn’t over, and we still need visual designers. (Fun fact, designers have written about the topic since 2017).


With all of these boot camp grads and everyone else in the industry, finding a UX designer on the market is getting easier and easier.

What happens with things that are relatively easy to find and hire?

When something is abundant, its value diminishes.

Are you hired to solve problems?

Lots of designers claim proudly that they are problem-solvers.

The more sophisticated ones say they are problem-preventers.

Because of these buzzwords, many newcomers think companies hire us to solve users’ problems.

However, that’s so 2016!

As much as we say we’re advocating for the users, we can’t be blind.

We’ve got to see that we work for businesses.

What do businesses care about?


Your mission is to understand the business and the overarching vision behind the product you’re designing. You must understand where the company is going.

Your true mission is to solve companies’ issues and help them make more money.

If you can build up a case of why and how a particular design element or research insight increased the revenue (if you can prove it), you’re still golden as a professional. Because money talks!

If you get this, it’ll make your designer life much easier. You will be able to let go of features easier and let go of unrealistic expectations of this job. You won’t be the problematic designer that we all know so well. As a result, you will become a team member who people want to work with.

If you embrace this, it’ll cement your role as a key partner in the product team.

Money over user needs

When Apple launched the first touchscreen iPhone in 2007, there were no design best practices for touch and small screen devices: no maps, no guidelines, just pure innovation.

By 2010, everybody was working on an app. Every designer and engineer fumbled in the dark — I remember because I was part of this group. We focused lots of design & engineering effort on building prototypes, testing, and iterating because there were no established patterns to follow.

Why did we do it?

Simple! We needed to create products that brought in the money.

Our goal was to delight our users with a product that was easy to use. The focus seemed to be on the users. It was all about money all this time, except if a non-profit employed you.

Fast forward to 2023, things have changed.

Design fundamentals are as solid as a rock and will likely remain unchanged in the foreseeable future. We have reliable design best practices, from smartwatches to desktops.

Even if you can’t design, you just need to download a few Figma community files, and you can pretend you understand the discipline and you’re a pro.

Now the internet is full of cookie-cutter designs. This is how design and design skills became commodified by us, the designers.

The ‘Elon Muskism’ of the design industry

Just look at what X (Twitter) did. Elon Musk laid off nearly half of the company and only kept a small number of designers — according to LinkedIn.

Everybody was against him and his decisions.

But more than a year later, people talk about him as some revolutionary visionary god.

I bet lots of companies will follow suit in the next few years, and they will reduce the design department headcount.

So if you’re not good at what you do, you’ve got to invest time to get good. Get good fast!

As I mentioned earlier, UX is not dead. We have users, humans, who use digital products, so companies need designers. But the industry doesn’t need as many as it required 5 years ago.

Too many cooks in the kitchen

It’s not unheard of for a company size of 2000 employees to have a large design department (by large, I mean over 100 people).

Let’s think about this a bit.

If a company has no omnichannel and didn’t acquire multiple smaller companies with entirely different branding, 100 designers are just way too many.

Do we all know what happens when we have 5 cooks in the kitchen?

They will make terrible soup!

That’s the same in design. You don’t need 5 designers working on the same mobile app because it will create endless debates and design reviews on topics such as the shade of blue you want to use for primary buttons.

But suppose you have a few designers dedicated to different areas under a product suite, covering research, UX, visual, and content design, working in collaboration with tech and product partners. In that case, that’s a powerful team.

Now, companies only need a few people to deliver features. They don’t need 5 or more designers to produce great work. That’s just too many people.

Unicorns will make a comeback

Nowadays, AI already creates visual designs based on boxes and lines on a post-it note. Imagine where it will be in 5 years. In 5 years, companies don’t want ‘just a visual designer.’

In 2013, I got a UX job because I could code. I was also able to think in systems, and I could create graphics. I could contribute to marketing conversations. I was a wizard of Adobe Photoshop. I could build a prototype in a few hours; it was way more complicated than clicking a few buttons in Figma. They hired me because I was some kind of unicorn in their eyes.

I believe that’s where the industry is going again.

But with a caveat that the businesses won’t care about our hard skills, e.g. visual design skillset. No-no! They will care about strategy, how much money you’ll bring, and how difficult it is to work with you for others to move the needle.

What are your daily tasks?

Anyone, who’s a digital labourer will be replaced by AI. — Nicolas Cole

Thinking or doing?

If doing (creating wireframes and graphics) is your main task, your job is in danger.

As Cole says, there’s zero value in these kind of tasks. Everyone is just sharing their opinion, what they like and don’t like. It’s not creative. It’s not strategic. An AI can make these designs and decisions quickly.

There might be some need for web designers in the future. We know what Squarespace can do in 2023; imagine what Squarespace could do with an additional AI feature. With a click of a button, all web design will be done. Companies won’t need doers.

You have to add value. The value is not in the doing. It’s in the thinking.

Who’s going to remain on top of the water?

I was chatting with a new friend the other day, and when he found out I work in design, he got all curious. He told me about his friend who just wrapped up a UX boot camp in Toronto and is about to dive into a new job. Then he hit me with the question, ‘Aren’t you worried about all these people out there gunning for the same job as you?’

Me? Worried? Yeah, nah! — said the kiwi in me.

I’m not concerned about others mastering Figma or another design tool or conducting perfect usability interviews.

Because that’s not the most challenging part, those are just hard skills anyone can learn.

Designers who think they’re talented, but all they can do is design…well, your economic value is lower than you might think because you’re not irreplaceable.

I’m in this business because of my ability to work well with teams on product strategy. I’m in the industry to provide research insights so that I know I advised my teams, and their decisions are grounded in both qualitative and quantitative hard-core data.

You want to be hired to think, not only to do.

Designers, it’s time to be more strategic about our career if we want to keep swimming in this industry.

I have 2 parting tips that helped me tremendously to be a more strategic design & research partner to my product and technology counterparts.

My tips you should employ now (if you haven’t already)

  1. Study behaviour science.

I have a formal cognitive and behavioural neuroscience education, but you don’t need to go this far. Instead, walk into any university bookshop and get level 3 and 4 behavioural science psychology books. Then move on to behavioural economics articles and books.

  1. Engage with various people in business.

Chat with people outside of the design field to embrace a wide array of viewpoints. We can only be more strategic if we start thinking more broadly and deeply about products. Make sure you write down any revelation you have when talking to other departments in the business.

Keep swimming!

Remember, there are other industries outside of tech. If you want to learn more about bulletproofing your design career, here’s an article you’ll enjoy: The Ultimate 8-Skill Guide to Navigating Your UX Career