In most U.S states you can’t be an architect, you can’t cut hair, you can’t be an electrical engineer, you can’t do about anything without some kind of official license.—from a recent Speak Up post
The discussion of certification and licensing of graphic designers hasn’t progressed much in the US since Ellen Shapiro’s July, 1993 Communication Arts article, “Certification for Graphic Designers? A Hypothetical Proposal,” and my January/February 1995 Print article, “The Case Against Certification.” (Both are reprinted in Looking Closer 2: Critical Writings on Graphic Design if you’re interested.) The idea still seems to have some appeal, though. The subject comes up frequently on Speak Up and anywhere else where graphic designers express our aggrieved condition.
This isn’t about whether the idea is vitally important or one of the seven stupidest things anyone has ever suggested. For question 1, assume that certification of US graphic designers will happen. For question 2, assume that licensing of graphic designers in the US will happen.
First some definitions:
Certification means that some group makes an affirmation of qualifications. That could involve portfolio reviews, written tests, background checks… you name it. Only people who are certified can claim to be certified but there are no restrictions on practicing and doing business for non-certified folk.
Licensing means a state law prohibits anyone from practicing unless they have met particular qualifications. You can’t practice law, prescribe medicine, braid hair, operate a taxicab, or act as a building contractor most places unless you have a license.
Question #1: What should certification certify? What specific qualifications or skills should be demonstrated to be certified? Why? (No complaints about the impossibility of testing for talent, just what should be considered and why.)
Question #2: What should licensing allow? In other words, what specifically should unlicensed people be prohibited from doing?
No debating legitimacy of either certification or licensing. Just stick to answering what you think certification or licensing can or should be. Relevant comments on how RGD (Registered Graphic Designer) status in Canada has worked or what the tests are like are welcome.