News & Politics

Tech Designer Thinks His Profession Should Be Licensed

Occupational licensing laws are often stupid.

It’s one thing to know that your doctor is accredited, but some of these laws are pointless. They do nothing more than raise prices for the consumer and increase the barrier to entry for new workers.

Contrary to what many might think, the support for these laws often comes from people already established in the field and not from consumers seeking protection. That’s why it’s not surprising that a new call for technology designers to be licensed comes from a guy who already has an agency running.

As the Los Angeles Times reports: “[T]here needs to be accountability, according to Mike Monteiro, an outspoken Silicon Valley designer who co-founded design agency Mule. In fact, Monteiro says design should be a licensed profession, complete with training, testing and accreditation.”

Monteiro’s argument is that tech designers’ work impacts so much of our daily lives — that the profession has amassed a great deal of power.

“The problem is the profession isn’t licensed,” Monteiro argues. “In the U.S. and in most places, I can call myself a designer, I can build myself a design portfolio, and I can find myself working at Facebook on a project that has severe implications, as we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, and have absolutely no training on how to deal with the stuff I’ve been given.”

He adds: “At no point is somebody going to see whether I’m accredited. This is like a random person on the street putting up a shingle on their door and calling them an OB/GYN. That’s terrifying, right?”

Well, that’s terrifying.

But a tech designer is not in the same position of life-or-death trust as an OB/GYN. Designers fill a surprisingly important role in today’s society, but they’re not risking people’s lives.

Further, requiring tech designers to be licensed would have stifled most of the tech innovation that has occurred in the last three decades. Companies like Google and Facebook are giant corporations today, but would not have been with a lengthy certification process. The rise of the internet came about from its Wild West atmosphere of competition.

Now these companies are huge — and are also offering products that much of the world now finds to be severely flawed. The only way to prevent newcomers from answering these customer concerns would be by stifling competition. Requiring tech designers to be licensed is the way to hinder that development.

Frankly, this proposal is right up there with the New Orleans requirement that tour guides be licensed. A much better form of consumer protection is simply word-of-mouth.

Monteiro doesn’t want young upstarts to challenge him and his colleagues. He doesn’t want to have competition offering a better product or a lower price. So he wants to create a barrier for entry.

This is protectionism and nothing more.