Graphic designers, arguably more than any other professionals, find the validity of their profession and work called into questioned. The tools designers use are now widely available and finding someone proficient with the software is easy as finding the nearest computer. Crowd sourcing has made spec work a recognized business model. The publicly perceived value of graphic design artifacts is dismal. Ask any designer how many requests they get for pro bono work and free now with the promise of future work offers. It is in such a sad state that we have analogs ready to go at the slightest provocation; “you wouldn’t ask a baker to make . . .” What other professionals suffer this?
We should be taking advantage of these precious moments when the work we do is the spotlight and help educate others and elevate our work.
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. When given the opportunity to elevate the discourse, to show ourselves as highly trained creative professionals we are the first to regurgitate the same nonsense that we complain undermines our profession. Hillary Clinton and Verizon both debuted new logos in the past few months. The public was not fond of either, which might be expected, because they are untrained and reacted viscerally, without thought or consideration. The frustrating turn was that many graphic designers, or those purporting to belong to that cadre, also joined this public chorus.
Graphic designers often critique design work of others is in the exact terms that they themselves do not want to be criticized. Is it fair to judge a design solely on aesthetics, to judge a work without seeing the brief, to judge a work without seeing its application, to judge before seeing if it just plain works? The answer to all is no, but we proceed to do just those things. We critique in the same visceral, uninformed way as the general public. There is thoughtful design criticism and I am as appreciative of that as I am embarrassed by these other reactions. The ultimate form of this idiocy, is the “I can do better” designer who generates their own “better” version of the logo for all the world to see. This is worse than spec work or any of the other myriad crimes committed against graphic design. If you can make a better version in five minutes without seeing the brief, doing any research or understanding the problem in any meaningful way, then graphic design is next to worthless and not really a profession at all. Or maybe you just made something you thought was prettier.
As a group, as a profession we need to find more effective, more professional ways to talk about each others work. We need to critique as makers not as consumers. We should be taking advantage of these precious moments when the work we do is the spotlight and help educate others and elevate our work. People can hear what we say.