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IBM's design director: UK universities need to create better designers and more of them

Sam Shead | March 2, 2015
The IBM director said he has informed the UK Design Council about the lack of talented designers in the UK.

Computing giant IBM is calling on the UK to create more designers of a higher standard.

Big Blue's design director, Karel Vrendenburg, told Techworld this week that he is in talks with the UK Design Council about plugging a skills gap that IBM has observed when recruiting in the UK.

"In the UK we're working with the UK Design Council," said Vrendenburg. "We determined there aren't enough designers to hire. A lot of the time we're hiring designers that don't have all the skills we need."

IBM has recruited design graduates from schools such as Loughborough, Brunel and Ravensbourne.

The company said it measures design graduate candidates based their skills in four areas. They include: visual design, user experience/interactive design, user research and front end development.

But in order to get design graduates up to speed the company has to run a three month training programme.

"We have a three month design camp that we refer to as the missing semester from design school," said Vrendenburg, adding that he's made the chief executive at the UK Design Council, John Mathers, aware of this.

IBM and the UK Design Council are now understood to be in discussions about what should be taught at UK design schools.

Vrendenburg said he is in talks with similar institutions around the world about how they can develop their nation's design schools.

Despite the apparent talent shortage, Vrendenburg said IBM is "hiring designers like crazy" adding that the New York-headquartered company has been taking on "hundreds and hundreds of designers all around the world".

IBM wasn't able to specify how many designers it currently employs but it did say it wants to have 1,000 designers spread across its global workforce by 2018, adding that it currently has approximately 40 in the UK, based out of a new design studio in London.

"When we hire people into these studios, the majority are millennials," said Vrendenburg. "They've got tattoos all over them. This does not look like your father's IBM. While I've got grey hair, I'm really the exception to the staff we've got."

Apple partnership

Some of the designers joining IBM's global workforce may be asked to work on the enterprise applications that IBM is developing with Apple.

"We're working directly with Apple to design and build apps that work for the enterprise," said Vrendenburg. "We want to transform that experience that has been for many people not as pleasurable as their consumer one."

The apps in question are what Vrendenburg refers to as starter apps, which means that businesses who want to install them will have to work with IBM to develop the applications they want.

 

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