As the winner of the Best of the Best Award at the 2010 Red Dot Design Awards in Germany, 24-year-old Meng Fan-ming (孟繁名) had pictured himself as a rising designer with a bright future. Instead, Meng, who had studied at Shih Chien University’s Department of Industrial Design, has remained unemployed over the past 10 months after his discharge from compulsory military service, despite having sent out 60 resumes.
Meng’s predicament is not uncommon and is being shared by many young designers, as shown by the results of a recent telephone survey conducted by National Taiwan Normal University’s (NTNU) Cultural and Creative Industries Center (CCIC) of 97 randomly selected top-three winners at various international design competitions.
The survey found that despite their achievements, one-third of the promising young designers polled were jobless.
“Even if these award winners are employed by corporations, their monthly wages could be less than NT$30,000, with those with a college diploma receiving a monthly salary of about NT$26,000 and those with a master’s degree earning about NT$28,000 a month,” CCIC director Hsu Ho-chieh (許和捷) said.
Young designers who run their own design studios are generally better off financially, Hsu said, with the monthly revenue of their startups averaging between NT$50,000 and NT$60,000.
“While Taiwan’s cultural and creative industry has been the county’s competitive edge in the global arena, the low wages prevalent in this industry could be detrimental to these promising designers,” Hsu said.
In 2005, the Ministry of Education launched an award scheme to encourage young designers to take part in international art and design contests. Over the past seven years, the ministry has spent NT$32 million offering cash prizes to and subsidizing more than 630 award-winning young designers.
Stepping up its efforts, this year the ministry established an online database of Taiwanese designers with profiles of their award-winning pieces, aiming to provide a platform that helps match young designers with the right companies.
Meng said he was not looking for a high salary, but a job in the design industry that interested him.
“Maybe it is because of the sluggish economy that none of the resumes I sent received any responses. A former classmate of mine made a career change to graphic design, which is something I may consider doing if my job-search effort continues to fail,” Meng said.
Chang Ya-ting (張雅婷), a postgraduate from NTNU’s Department of Fine Arts who won the prestigious German iF concept design award last year, she said she had chosen design over being an educator.
“However, with a job in a design company, I only make about NT$30,000 a month. In addition to design-related works, I am also in charge of marketing planning,” Chang said, adding that a teaching job is still her backup choice.
Chen Chung-hung (陳重宏), who used to work as a creative director for a advertising company, chose to set up his own design studio after being admitted to the same department as Chang and winning the London International Awards.
Saying his monthly income has surpassed his previous paycheck of NT$150,000 as a creative director, Chen said winning an award burnishes one’s credentials, but is not enough to secure a job by itself.
“One’s capability and work experience are what corporate heads really value and take into account nowadays, which is why aspiring designers should start building connections in the industry before graduating,” Chen said.