Ageism and Design

I’m sure that this will open up a can of worms, but I also know that anyone within the design field is generally aware of how ageism has a huge impact in our industry. I’m sure that we all have stories we can share.

However, I mainly wanted to kick off this thread due to the fact that as I get older I am starting to consider ways in which I can either “protect” myself moving forward or to seek advice in possible career transitions which can play off of multiple years of design experience. Essentially I am in the early stages of considering making a career shift into a non-design position (possibly) which is more “safe” as I get older from being affected by ageism. I’ve already considered some obvious transitions, such as moving more into the role of managing a team of creatives. I do have some experience in being a lead as well as somewhat managing a team of junior creatives.

I just figured I’d open the floodgates and see if anyone had any advice or possible directions to consider.

The bottom line is I have a growing bit of dread around the fact that if I were to lose my current job, finding a similar job, with comparable pay will be an uphill challenge because I suspect that if I were to interview now my age would be a liability despite my decades of experience. Which is maddening.


I am living proof that your dread is justified. If I find a solution, I’ll let you know.

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I know the print industry is always looking for techs that know their way around the software inside and out. But that would mostly be handling other people’s files for output, and I can tell you firsthand, I’ve seen some…creative…ways of building files.
If you like puzzles it’s fun for a while…

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@PrintDriver I see it occasionally even in my current job. We had a third party vendor that provided some services for us that we would be essentially rebranding and white labelling some of their materials. They sent over some brochure print files that made my brain hurt and made me realize just how amazingly clueless some designers are. I can’t even tell you how many separate text boxes there were for the body copy. Oh, and of course missing bleeds, inconsistent type treatment (no styling), etc.

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@HotButton Well, that is not want I want to hear. Sorry to hear that.

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While I am of an age that could make me subject to ageism, I am self-employed, so my situation is going to be different than yours. But I would highly encourage you to start looking and planning now so you can be proactive rather than reactive. Look into moving into an art director or creative director or manager type roll. But the truth is that those sort of titles don’t necessarily come with job security. So consider potential employers carefully. Is there a path up the ladder with your current employer?

@PopsD might have some insight here.


Somebody posted a funny (but really sad at the same time) video here a while back about a designer that did great work, won a bunch of awards for his company, and then got replaced with someone younger.

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@Steve_O I actually was an art director for a pretty solid 7-8 years at a previous company. I have considered returning back to more of that role. In some ways I still have a similar role at my current job without the official title.

TBH in my mind the role I feel would best suit my experience and that I feel I could excel at would be more of managing a team of creatives. As I had mentioned in my first post I have done that some in the past, but unfortunately without the title.

But, you are right, I’m definitely trying to be proactive and begin the process now rather than wait.

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Well, for what it’s worth, here you go . . .
How would you like to lose your biggest client, whom you had made the mistake of believing you would never lose, to one of the drinking buddies of the new manager?
How would you like having to start all over (at age 52) including over four years, working hard, making cold calls to Marketing Directors that are half your age and being told "Well, we’re looking for “YOUNGER” Ideas?
How would you like to find yourself in a fetal position, crying your middle-aged eyes out and begging God to help you? All the time feeling totally alone?

That’s what it’s like to be in the situation CraigB is talking about. I lived it—through it! And I can tell you to do everything you can to avoid my situation, now some 24 years ago.

Like Steve_O said, I, too, was a self-employed professional. In my career I won more ADDY, TELLY, AFTRA, and PIAS Awards than you could possibly imagine. But, when push came to shove, those awards weren’t worth a plug nickle to younger business owners and managers who (despite my amazing portfolio) still wanted “YOUNGER” Ideas.

There is a silver lining to all this. God did answer my cries for help. I started getting calls from other middle-aged business owners who knew about my work and reputation, but thought their account might be too small for me. By the fifth year of my loss, I gained back enough to make a decent living until I retired at the age of 69. I think one of the best things that happened in my four years in my “Dark Night of the Soul” is that my wife tells me to this day, how proud she is of me for sticking it out, enduring the pain, the hardship, and “keeping the faith” so to speak.

Other answers from God also happened during that fifth year that brought my income back up to the level it was, but to keep this thread from turning “spiritual” I’ll just say, you would have to send me a private message to hear the full story.

Bottom Line—there is hope for any designer in any situation (especially if you have an understanding and supporting wife like mine.) My advice, for what it’s worth—PLAN AHEAD!—because you never know if that light in the tunnel is a train, or a wonderful, unexpected opportunity and a way out and up!

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@PopsD Thanks for your insight. And in a perfect world, I’d obviously rather avoid the “pain”. Which is why I am trying to plan ahead now and be a little more proactive.

So, my general goal at the moment for 2024 is polish up the resume, polish up the portfolio and to begin a few things. 1, reaching out to my network, at least those that would be good “ambassadors” for me to see if they have any leads or know of any opportunities that could potentially allow me to move more into a “managerial” role. 2, look at potential skill gaps and begin addressing those gaps whether through formal training/classes/certificates, etc. and 3, begin to actually apply and attempt to land an opportunity to transition into a role that is hopefully more secure.


CraigB—that’s a great plan! I’m impressed! Go for it, Young’un!

I’m 64 and I have no plans to retire. I’m on minimum wage and part time, but I’m paying the bills and enjoying the extra me time. I got headhunted a couple of years ago and I turned them down. It was more money but also more hours. I’m over that shit, I don’t need more money and working full time is not for me. I’ve got too much to do.

I know if I had to, finding a new job doing anything at all would be next to impossible at my age, and I understand the reasons. Part of it is simple, ignorant ageism. Part of it is a suspicion that an older and perceptably wiser employee would undermine authority. Part of it is simply that we have very little in common with the younger generations. We have different cultural references. They can talk about skibidi toilet and so on (even that’s old now) and they will assume that we can’t contribute to that conversation because we don’t get the joke. For the most part, they’re right. They don’t get my jokes either.

Two more thoughts:

I work from home, and remote working removes a lot of the problems with office culture, so if you can get a gig like that, ageism should be less of a problem (the problem is getting the gig)

I was one of those a couple of years ago recoiling in horror at the prospect of AI. I was wrong. AI in design and, yes, copywriting as well as other areas is becoming the norm. Whatever you think about this new tech (any new tech really) it is wise to embrace it. One of the first questions you will be asked in an interview now is “What’s your go-to AI for design?” If you say I prefer to do it myself, that’s the wrong answer. (It may be the right answer, but you won’t get the job).


Your idea is fantastic. It requires significant discipline and determination. I also have many acquaintances who work as recruiters or in HR departments. I often communicate with them, and such an experience would be impressive for them. However, they all emphasize the importance of development regardless of one’s current position. This could involve taking courses or attending webinars. Continuous development is crucial for someone in the role of an Art Director because in such a field, if you’re not moving forward, you’re essentially standing still (much like in marketing, for the most part). Additionally, managing people, especially creative individuals, requires considerable skill and well-developed communication. I would also advise taking each step deliberately, being confident, and being able to take risks. Sometimes, the more we overthink and find negatives in something, the quicker we can burn out an idea and succumb to fear, hindering progress.

I believe everything will work out for you, and you’ll be able to land the position and company you desire. Wishing you success, strength, and diligence! Have a great day!

Last spring I lost my biggest whale client to Canva :roll_eyes: and came here to get feedback on my portfolio site while I looked for a new job.

I never found a new job. During that time I could see that no one was even visiting my site. In the 2011-2016 era I used to message recruiters out of the blue and they’d reply immediately with opportunities that matched my skills, but now no one was even visiting my LinkedIn page. I don’t know if it was my age + experience (I had “Art Director” experience now, not just “Designer”), if I was priced too high… was my skillset too broad? Was it because I didn’t use Figma??? I never got a lick of feedback. It was a devastating time, and I was so defeated. I had my own “Dark Night” with tears and regret and self-loathing that I was a hack and failed my family. My daughter was about 6 months old at the time.

So I started my own business. If I’d started down that road at the time I didn’t need it, maybe I could’ve hit the ground running when the time came. It was messy at first. But now I feel WAY more in control of my future. I’d been laid off enough in my career that a full-time job never felt like security anyway.

I don’t know if I necessarily recommend starting a business, but consider it!


Thanks for sharing your story.

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Is this language really necessary? There are better descriptors in the English language to express your anger.

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Rather than a rule against curse words and various degrading terms, the forum had a list of blocked words that we would update when people got creative with their spelling. For some reason, most of those words have disappeared. I’ve added most of them back.

I thought we were going to commiserate over this intense shared life experience. But rather than form a connection, you chose to ignore everything I wrote and police my language. That’s so weird!

If I wrote it, then yes, that language was necessary. I found your “God” talk unnecessary, but also found it easy to keep that to myself because I don’t have some over-inflated sense of self-importance.

But don’t worry — I see someone actually censored my post then changed the rules — which is such an excessively nuclear option that i’m not interested in ever returning to this forum.

Such an irony for this particular thread. Good luck staying relevant.


Thanks for being a human.