As Design continues to take on a more central role within organizations, the need to enlist exceptional design talent is at the top of decision-makers’ minds. 93% of design-focused companies report that they plan to grow their design teams this year — but though there is no shortage of designers on the market, demand for most talented among them has far overtaken supply.

You’re not alone if you’re struggling to identify, court, hire and retain the designers you want: those with the right combination of experience, aptitudes and interpersonal abilities for your specific initiatives and culture. The competition is going after the same talent pool in full force; companies are fighting to stand out from other employers by offering the highest pay and the swankiest perks. But as we’re hearing loud and clear from the Filterati — our community of highly sought-after digital marketing and design experts — attracting the very best takes a deeper approach.

“Today’s most elite designers want to get much more than just a paycheck out of their next roles,” explains Eric Meline, Filter’s Director of Talent Solutions. “They’re looking for very specific draws in terms of environment, culture and opportunities — and if companies aren’t in step with those priorities, they’re likely to lose the talent they want to the competition.”

We asked three talented members of the Filterati, designers Jason Reynolds, Jan Olof Nygren, and Nepunnee Birondo, what matters most to them when weighing a new opportunity. Here’s what we learned, and how you can use these insights to shape a more designer-friendly employee value proposition.

1. A Greater Sense of Purpose

A paycheck alone isn’t enough to attract, engage, and retain the designers you really want. Craving a stronger connection to the impact of their work, they’re looking for organizations and projects they feel are making a difference.

More than ever, workers want jobs that give them a sense of meaning. Over 50% of millennials say they would take a pay cut to find a role that aligns with their values, and 90% want to do work that makes the world a better place. With so many ideas and talents to offer, and an expanding range of projects to work on, design professionals are in an ideal position to use their skills for good.

Filterati and Visual Designer Jason Reynolds has long been thinking about ways to help others through his design and photography work, and this year he’s diving deeper into that passion. “One of my biggest goals right now is developing my design skills in ways that can benefit others,” he says. “I really enjoy helping people, and my new role at Microsoft might allow me to do that. It will require a lot of dedication on my part, but if I can make it happen, it might make this a more fulfilling year for myself and others.”

2. More Opportunities for Professional Development

Designers are kicking off the new year with a renewed focus on learning and growth. To continue to excel in their field, they’re seeking to master new tools and build on their already impressive skill sets.

Organizations that offer opportunities for continued learning — such as educational reimbursement, mentorships and workshops — are becoming increasingly attractive. Because, in an industry that’s constantly being shaped by new trends and technologies, designers know it’s more important than ever to continue their professional development.

To become a more well-rounded designer, for example, Jason is going back to school for coding and programming. “My biggest goal for the coming year is to successfully learn front-end development, HTML, CSS, JavaScript and libraries like Jquery and AngularJS, in a way that allows me to realistically apply them to real-world scenarios.” Jason says that it would be “both challenging and fun” to be able to build fully functioning previews to show to stakeholders.

3. Deeper Integration in the Big Picture

Thinking bigger-picture, designers want to take a hands-on approach when it comes to “behind the scenes” factors such as UX, programming, and business goals.

Forward-thinking designers want to gain a more holistic understanding of the different, interconnected elements that underpin a successful finished product. For designer Jan Olof Nygren, this means taking a closer look at the concept of storytelling.

“Something that is becoming increasingly clear to me is how important narrative is in our field. Visual building blocks, such as a logo, a typeface and a color palette all tell a story, separately and together as a whole. With today’s focus on user experience, it’s increasingly important to think about what those stories are.”

Jason is excited broaden his perspective by integrating coding and programming into his work. “The biggest lesson I learned last year is that as a creative, you can also think logically about how coding and programming translate into a design language. Seeing the system work as a whole — watching it develop from a simple PSD file to a living document on the web — really enriches your understanding of Design from a bigger-picture viewpoint.”

4. Powerful Collaboration

The best designers thrive when they’re able to exchange ideas and feedback both up- and downstream — so seek opportunities to foster a more open, supportive, and inclusive work environment.

The designers we spoke with would like to see key relationships strengthen in the coming year: those between designers and clients, designers and non-design stakeholders, and different types of design professionals.

“My most successful projects have generally involved a close partnership with the client,” Jan says. “To foster these relationships, the design industry could benefit from slowing down: taking the time to get to know clients, and giving the design team time to process needs, concepts, and solutions.”

San Francisco-based Filterati and UX Designer Nepunnee Birondo hopes to see design take on a more central and valued role within organizations. In the design industry in particular, she says, collaboration is crucial. “Non-design stakeholders really need to respect and trust their design team’s expertise and recommendations.”

Even within the design profession, Jason points out, there’s room for improvement when it comes to relationship building. “I think there’s still a big divide between production-level and conceptual designers. Production-level specialists are incredibly important, but I don’t think that’s always communicated within the top-down structure of most companies. That’s something I think us designers should to work together to change.”

5. Flexible Work Options

With so many companies courting them, the industry’s most in-demand designers are going to be selective when it comes to choosing when, where, and how they get their work done.

The new world of work is ushering in new ways to balance work life and life-life, and designers are excited to take advantage of them. Remote work in particular is ever more popular among design professionals, whose work often requires a great deal of heads-down, focused time.

For Nepunnee, working from home has been a great way to save time and pursue her passion for international travel. Maintaining the ability to work remotely is one of her biggest priorities for this year.

“I’m happy to be working for a company that encourages work-life balance. It’s less than a 30-minute commute, and I’m able to work from home whenever I like. I’m sure if I chose to work from my next international destination, I can work from there as well. I would love to see every industry in the Bay Area, which is getting increasingly congested, further embrace remote work options.”

To learn more about how to win over the industry’s most in-demand digital marketing and design talent, don’t miss Sweep Top Talent off Their Feet: 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Employer Brand.

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