"> 5 Thought-Provoking Insights on the Learning Needs of Designers in Singapore
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5 Thought-Provoking Insights on the Learning Needs of Designers in Singapore

By   |  14 October 2021Design Thinking

Xinran Ning is an undergraduate from Yale-NUS College who was interning with Studio Dojo over the summer holidays. Over the past year, she grew interested in design as a possible career for herself after learning about how it could provide a powerful lens with which to understand and solve complex problems in the world. This Learning Needs Survey project is her first attempt at conducting quantitative analyses of survey results and then converging upon some insights that might be useful for the design community. As a complete beginner in quantitative analysis, for this project she tried her hand at cleaning up the data, clustering the data, and conducting exploratory data analysis (EDA) using the software she was most familiar with – RStudio.

What are the learning needs of designers in Singapore? Are our learning spaces adequately meeting these needs?

This was the curiosity that led Studio Dojo to send out a survey to designers in Singapore in August last year. Over 60 individuals responded, from a range of seniority levels and backgrounds.

In this article, I share five thought-provoking insights I have found, as well as some reflections that emerged for me after conducting an analysis on this quantitative study. If you are interested in more details about my process for the analysis, check out the full article instead – Learning Needs of Designers in Singapore — A Quantitative Study. Whether you are new to design and still learning the ropes, or a design leader hoping to better support your team, I hope you find the insights in this article meaningful in some way!

The Top 5 Thought-Provoking Insights

1. Junior designers are more interested in interpersonal-level and group-level skills, while senior designers are more interested in systems-level skills.

Categories of Learning Needs
Popular Area of Interest

While the difference is slight as times, the general trend suggests that senior designers turn their focus towards areas like and strategy and business management (‘systems-related skills’) as they pick up leadership and management roles in their organisations. Meanwhile, junior designers with 1-6 years of experience work more in smaller teams and therefore are more interested in picking up skills relating to working in those teams.

  • 59% of designers with more than 10 years of experience indicated interest in systems-related skills, compared to 36% with 1-3 years of experience, and 0% with less than a year of experience.
  • 50% of designers with 1-3 years of experience, and 35% of designers with 4-6 years of experience, indicated interest in group-related skills, compared to 23% with more than 10 years of experience.
  • 66% of designers with less than 1 year of experience, and 29% of designers with 1-3 years of experience, indicated interest in interpersonal-related skills, compared to 17% with more than 10 years of experience, and 0% with 7-9 years of experience.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

Are there systems in place to support designers both as they navigate working in teams, and as they transition to more leadership roles?

2. Designers who have studied design formally in school are more interested in learning design-related skills than designers who have not.

Area of Interest by Education Background

According to the survey results, 83% of respondents who had learnt design formally were interested in design-related skills, compared to 67% of respondents who had not learnt design formally.

I had expected to see designers who had not studied design formally to be interested in picking up new design skills to support their work, while designers who have already studied design formally would be more focused on applying the theory and skills that they have learnt. However, the difference shown in the results could be due to a variety of underlying variables, like job responsibilities or personal career goals. It might also be possible that designers who have gone through formal design training have more language or skills for further self-directed learning in design, or they tend to pay more emphasis on honing their design skills rather than focusing on soft skills like facilitation and team management.

3. Many designers, regardless of what they are currently interested in learning, want to see more human-to-human interaction and connection in the learning space for designers in Singapore.

Designers would like more of in learning space

“[I would like] a more personal learning, kind of like a one on one experience. [With] books, online courses or even in a seminar there’s only so much that you can read/ask at that point of time and after that it stops. It lacks a longer and personalised touch to the learning which I feel is essential.”

49% of responses mentioned the need for more opportunities for things like discussions, peer-to-peer learning, and mentoring, instead of the traditional lecture or online course methods. Hence, it might be likely that designers in general feel that there is a need to connect and interact with fellow designers more, and that there is currently a shortage of opportunities for them to do so in the learning space here. It is also possible that the COVID-19 restrictions in the past 1.5 years may have cut down on the opportunities for networking and connecting with other designers, which would contribute to this sentiment.

4. Most senior designers find the learning community lacking in vibrancy, while most junior designers find the learning community more vibrant.

Perception of Vibrancy in Community

On a scale of 1 to 10, 70% of the designers with 7-9 years of experience scored the vibrancy of the learning community 5 and below, while over 70% of designers between 1-6 years of experience scored it above 5. Additionally, only designers between 0-6 years of experience gave scores higher than 7.

I had originally hypothesised that the more experience an individual had in the design field, the more vibrant they would find it to be, because they may pick up more connections and resources along the way which were not readily accessible to a fresh grad/new designer. Instead, it may be the case that the learning space for designers are actually geared toward meeting the needs of new or junior designers, and insufficient attention is paid to more senior designers and their needs.

“[I hope to see] intermediate or advanced learning and discussions. Now the Telegram group or meet ups are junior heavy.”

5. Senior designers with 7-9 years of experience most want support from their employees or companies, while senior designers with more than 10 years of support want courses and peer groups catered to them.

Key Support for Learning Space
Popular Learning Need

“[I would like] for agencies and leaders to understand the design and the creative process and not expect it to be 100% linear, for them to allow their briefs to be challenged and shaped by the design consultancy.”

60% of designers with 7-9 years of experience wanted to see more environment-related support.

  • It was interesting to see that designers with specifically 7-9 years of experience seemed most frustrated with the perceived lack of support from their organisations, citing the lack of financial support for further trainings and creative freedom in projects as things they wished to see improved upon. It made me wonder if designers at this specific stage in their career experienced these restrictions more keenly than other designers due to their job responsibilities, or if there are other reasons at play.
  • Food for thought: Do designers at this specific stage in their career experience these restrictions more keenly than other designers due to their job responsibilities, or are there are other reasons at play?

47% of designers with more than 10 years of experience. wanted to see more people-related support.

  • It was interesting that designers with more than 10 years of experience seem to experience a resurgence of interest in seeing more education support in the learning space, with 41% responding that they hope to see more in-depth courses catered to senior designers (in topics like systems thinking and futures thinking). These results suggest that there is a lack of quality courses specifically catered to designers who are taking on leadership positions in their organisations. Furthermore, as mentioned in the fourth insight, some senior designers also feel that there is a lack of peer groups catered for them to discuss issues that are more relevant to them.

“[I would like to see] more mentorship at the junior and senior levels, courses and peer groups for senior designers stepping into design leadership and management.”

Conclusion

These are the top five thought-provoking insights I’ve found so far!

So…what’s next? If you would like to see the graphs and infographics I created or learn more about the context of this study, I’ve written a longer article – Learning Needs of Designers in Singapore — A Quantitative Study, where I go in greater detail about the process of this analysis and the experience I had.

If not, then thank you so much for taking the time to read this article! If you’ve found this article helpful, feel free to share it with your colleagues and friends, or start a conversation about what interests and plans you may have for your design career, and consider how you can help to support each other.

Take care! 🙂

Xinran

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