• 87% of placements
    were relocated from 19 countries

  • 230+ hires since launching
    Aspexx in 2021

  • 98% retention rate
    across all clients







87% of placements
were relocated from 19 countries

230+ hires since launching
Aspexx in 2021

98% retention rate
across all clients

Despite rumblings of a recession and economic turmoil, it’s extremely busy right now for recruitment in the digital and design industries.

To be fair, it’s been non-stop all year, but there’s something about the final quarter where it feels like you are on permanent acceleration. If you were in a car, your foot would be almost through the floor. I wouldn’t have it any other way though, because I’ve never been any good functioning on autopilot.

That being said, I’m currently experiencing a rare moment of calm (it won’t last) and found myself pausing for a moment to appreciate the unique position that working in this part of the world affords, especially for the sectors we specialize in.

It’s easy to take for granted that the opportunities we now see in digital and design have always been there, but in truth it’s an ongoing maturation process as demand for specific skill sets evolve and the large-scale digital transformations across key sectors, such as banking, retail and tourism, continues.

This growth is what’s led to a massive demand in improving UX, with more responsive web platforms and apps being created as a result. It’s so interesting to see how far we have come, so I thought I’d look at the key factors that are driving this momentum and how the design industry is maturing on the back of this…

Government Initiatives

The government has been hugely instrumental in putting initiatives in place to create a digital economy and open up the doors for businesses. We’re now seeing a lot of global design agencies, you know these real powerhouses in the experience design space, looking to enter new markets globally with the UAE and KSA hot targets for expansion.

It’s logical to look to this part of the world, as it is less mature than other markets, yet offers so much in terms of development opportunities, and thanks to the government easing restrictions and offering more flexibility with different visa options, these businesses can enter more freely.

In turn this helps with hiring talent and attracting international design talent to come here and make their mark.

Influx of Skills

What I love about this market is the diversity. Genuinely, I don’t think there’s anywhere like it in the world that can bring together so many different cultures and create something so unique. As the country has opened up, designers from all over the world are now coming here, all with different training and perspectives to really drive the region and level of design forward.

Having worked with a lot of designers, I know they love to live and breathe new customers, understanding the people they are designing for and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. It’s that blend of talent and knowledge that can help identify what works for each market, playing with the platforms and innovating new solutions in the process.

I truly believe that the UAE is the best kind of playground for designers to level up their experiences, defy expectations and create something truly groundbreaking in this digital-focused economy.

The ‘VIP Experience’ Focus

If you compare the UAE to more mature design markets, like Amsterdam, New York or London, we may not be as fully formed yet, but the pace in which we are innovating is ahead of others, largely because in Dubai there are more start ups and government schemes that provide a platform for designers to come in.

Where the country really excels is the ‘experience’ element – everything has a VIP polish to it. There is such a focus on service design apparent in everything from restaurants to shopping malls, which make the experience so much more seamless and enjoyable.

I actually like going through Dubai airport because of how frictionless it is and the speed in which I can move from exiting the plane to clearing passport control and getting to my car. 12 minutes it took me a few weeks ago. Imagine that in Heathrow or Manchester!

There is undoubtedly a growing trend and need for this kind of thoughtful and practical design. The scope for innovation is limitless here; it’s a country that never stands still and to be able to play a part in transforming industries through design is a truly exciting prospect.

Talent Development & Education

I’m often asked about ‘the WHY’ when candidates look to make a move. Aside from all the obvious benefits that come with accepting a role, there is a deeper consideration and that focuses more on professional development.

When recruiting out here, I’m keen to really point out how potential candidates will have the chance to make an impact much quicker than they would back home. Transformation at scale is much more achievable because of the general mindset here; it’s more open and happy to embrace different viewpoints, ideas and solutions.

With this in mind, we’re seeing an increase of EX design talent, bolstering the design community as a whole and bringing new specialisms into the mix. Key design figures are choosing this region to come and talk, share their knowledge and attend events, which helps open up possible collaborations too. It’s definitely not a closed industry, which is great for innovation in my view.

Another factor that’s really driving the growth we’re seeing in the design community is through universities now offering more courses in design. The IxDF now has a head office in Dubai, which is another indication of how important this market is to the design world.

Brand In-House Expansion

Back in the day UX was bandied about as a buzzword without much context. In the UK, businesses tended to pay lip service to the idea of UX and hire agencies with these ‘specialists’ to plug the gaps in house and do the things they didn’t understand. However, as people realized they needed to compete on this, it wasn’t price point that drove UX, it was experience. As London matured, big companies built in-house teams as a way to differentiate themselves.

We’re starting to see this shift happen in Dubai as well, with some brands making the move away from agencies and consultancies and instead building their own in-house teams. This is so exciting to witness first hand, seeing design at the heart of the agenda at board level, pushing customer innovation and the potential for even greater service and experience-led design.

I don’t think it’s limited to improving the UX journey either, it’s experience, product, innovation and service-design all coming together. For organizations they are now starting to realize how important this is to business function and they are allocating resources to build these capabilities to progress, move forward and eventually, lead, for others to follow their blueprint.

The Ongoing Picture… 

I’d be lying if I said it was all plain sailing; we still have a way to go to compete with other markets on the same scale. Designers may not always understand the systems and processes in place here, or at times, the chaotic nature of business in this part of the world. It’s all a learning curve though and while the trade off may be more red tape to navigate in the short-term, long-term you are coming to a country where CX and design are at the forefront.

Think about it, there are now more CXO roles cropping up in Europe and I don’t think we are far behind in putting this alongside CMOs in terms of importance in the management structure. If you went back five or six years, you only saw the odd UX role being advertised and if I’m being brutally honest, no-one knew what it entailed.

However, as I mentioned above, organizations are now hiring full on teams that cover the whole end-to-end design experience. That is a huge leap in a relatively short space of time. As a result we’re seeing a massive influx in roles within service design, business design and innovation, and even sustainability design, as we continue to level up with Western markets.

The UAE is always looking to evolve and mature, and in terms of quality and level of design, there is significant investment in helping this to happen. However, there is only so much they can do in terms of ambition, because they need the right people to make this a reality.

Candidates need to be enticed to come here, which when you think about it shouldn’t be that difficult; a 4.5 day week, all year round sunshine and a timezone that allows you to do business easily with other markets. Beyond the obvious benefits, we’re now starting to see design leaders come here too, which helps to progress the maturity of design in the region.

This knowledge is hard to quantify, but by mentoring lower level designers or those just starting out, it undoubtedly makes a difference in helping raise the bar for design overall.

Ultimately, there’s never been a better time to make the move and make your mark. So, what are you waiting for?

In a rare moment of quiet, it was great to finally write what’s been in my mind for the last year! If you enjoyed this article, make sure you check out Aspexx’s content – Jack and I have been busy here! Follow our social pages for insights on everything from the recruitment process, how to create the perfect portfolio, why employee experience is critical to retention and the REAL cost of living in places like Dubai.

Thanks for reading.

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