Why work for the Man doing crap you don’t want to do? Design your own stuff. January was a record month for us, and February is beating it. This is in a market (furniture) that should be doing poorly right now, because nobody is buying furniture to fill up the new homes that they aren’t buying. The revenue (on a single product mind you) isn’t enough for me to live on at this point in my life, but if I were still 22 it would be.
Identify a good market, design a product using processes that favor low volumes, stay away from big tooling costs, eliminate as much labor as possible (especially your own), and go. Worst case you totally screw it up on all counts and are out, what $5-10k?
In some ways, this recession is just something we’ve collectively agreed is going on. Banks are hoarding cash, so it’s hard to get loans, which means house sales and car sales are in the crapper. Other stuff is not off that much, and in a lot of cases is up. People are getting laid off because managers have decided that’s what they should be doing, or because they need to be seen doing something. The telling sign is when a company lays a bunch of people off and their revenue doesn’t fall. So what were those people doing exactly?
People are still buying stuff, and every coffee house I go into is still full of people paying $5 for a cup of coffee. We have poor memories. This ain’t exactly 1933, or even 1973.
You will never have a better opportunity to start something new. Everything you need to buy (materials, manufacturing services, advertising) is on sale. You’re fine as long as you don’t need a bank loan (if you do things right, you won’t). And if you can make it work now, you’ll be in especially great shape when things turn around.
Personally, I’ve been hot on the path of starting my own business finally, after years of toying with the idea. With no job, and no prospects for the foreseeable future, I really have nothing to lose and much more to gain than I could ever get from a crap job “until the economy turns around.”
Approaching the creation of a business as a design problem gives one a killer portfolio. Even if you are not successful with your business, you can show your experience being able to consider more aspects of a product than just design itself. Who can honestly say that would not be valuable experience in an employers’ eyes?
In the county I live in, unemployment has jumped to 13%, but even those out of work are spending money. They still try to maintain as much “normal” as possible. Those with a job are not making big purchases, but they have certainly not stopped buying everything. The lowest end seems to be getting hit the hardest, while mid- to high-end is at least surviving.
People are more aware of value now than ever before, and as designers we should be able to clearly illustrate our ability to add value through design, weather or not its for the man or our own ventures. Its taken me a couple of months since being “freed up for other opportunities” to take the blinders off and see the opportunities all around, despite what the media says is happening. Recession or not, people are still living their lives, and there are still demands that beg to be filled.
I’m right with you, I’ve been working on the same and telling others to try it also. Cut out the middlemen as much as possible, own your effort. Use that strategic thinking to design a product under recession restrictions and go for it.