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Are There Too Many Of Us?

Going to a bar or a coffee shop these days, it seems like the city is overrun by art directors, designers and other creative professionals. It used to be that when you stated to be a graphic designer, it was perceived as exotic and even special and people looked at you with the “ah, that explains it” type of look. Now everyone seems to be in the creative field. And I don’ t think I frequent spots that are considered designer-hang-outs. However, I live and work in Los Angeles and what happens here might not be the norm for the rest of the country, but I noticed the same in Switzerland, where I grew up and went through art school. Maybe not to the extent as here in southern California, but still, the shift is significant.

What happened?
Are PCs to blame for all of it? I tend to think not. There must be something else, but it’s not that our profession usually makes the big bucks, after all, we’re not attorneys. So if it’s not the potential income that sends them all into our field, then it must be something else. What is it?

Where to draw the line?
There are great designers or art directors in our field and what they create is truly amazing. But, in my opinion, there is a wealth of so-called art directors, graphic designers etc. that don’t deserve the titles they give themselves. As we probably all agree, mastering Adobe software for example does not make one an art director, but fact is, that’s what so many claim they are, and that’s how they are perceived by others. Art directors to me are the prime example of an abused title. It has turned into the definition of someone that knows very little, but not enough to pull anything off right. Should there be a line between who’s got it — or not?

So, are there too many of us? What’s your take?

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PUBLISHED ON Feb.18.2004 BY Peter Scherrer
Rick Moore’s comment is:

Several years ago, Gene Gable put the controversial idea out there of certification for design professionals. Obviously the idea never took off, but is it that bad of an idea? With the amount of tech schools out there now pumping "designers" into the marketplace in as little as eighteen months, certification might be a good way to separate the wheat from the tares. The last time I checked, for every design job that was open, there were over one hundred applicants. With certification, would this number drop? Would studios be assured that they were getting the best qualified applicant?


On Feb.18.2004 at 12:27 PM
Mark Kaufman’s comment is:

In general are there too many folks in the creative fields? No. Are there too many hacks? Absolutely. But that's no different than back in the day when we were all "commercial Artists". For every Brodovitch, Pineles and Dorfsman there were thousands of faceless, nameless people slaving away in bullpens churning out menus and broadsides, and house organs. Which by the way are regurgitated back into the culture via CSA, Chantry and the like.

There is seemingly a "Design Renaissance" in the country. Queer Eye, Design Within Reach, Trading Spaces, Martha Stewart, etc. People buy well appointed, well designed SUV's for no other reason than status and style. This is one of the reasons that people are flocking to the creative industries. That and the perception that it's FUN. On that note I would agree. It is more fun than working the late shift at the Cheescake Factory or digging ditches. But it is work if you are serious about it.

I have noticed a bit of a dull backlash though. It used to be that this was an exotic profesion that people at cocktail parties thought was an interesting way to make a living. But now that there are more designers than there are baristas, people seem to think that being a designer is merely a stepping stone to something else. Much like the waitress that wants to direct. On several occasions lately I have talked to designers that talk about getting out of the design business and moving on. I have also spoken to a few people in other creative feilds that I haven't seen in a while and they asked quite seriously if I was still a designer. And looked at me with puzzlement when I insisted that this is what I want to do with my life. So it looks like the nation is moving on to more serious pursuits. Like Nascar.

On Feb.18.2004 at 12:37 PM
Matt’s comment is:

This is a subject that hits close to home for me. I didn't get a degree in Design (graphic or otherwise) and I taught myself how to use the software and (horror of horrors) I use a PC instead of a Mac. Yet I call myself a Graphic Designer and I do Graphic Design and, most days, I think I'm good at it.

However, because I don't have the credentials, I'm not allowed to be a full member of my local Graphic Designers Association and I tend to feel self-conscious about not being a "real" Graphic Designer. But I'm not whiny every day...

Are there too many of us? Yes, probably. It bugs me when I can't get enough work because someone's kid is going to do the company website in exchange for a new XBox game, whereas I'm too expensive (Grrr). On the flip side of this, though, many would say that I don't deserve to be one of "us" either.

It's unfortunate that templates and other quick fix software packages have given thousands of Joe Blows delusions of being design professionals. Unfortunately, it's hard to know where to draw the line - a few of those people might actually be really good!

I suppose it just means we have to work harder to educate potential clients as to why design-by-professional is better value than design-by-kid-for-XBox-money.

Here's a follow-up question: how do you judge someone to be your peer/colleague?

On Feb.18.2004 at 12:43 PM
marian’s comment is:

I wondered if this were a certification question, ultimately. I believe in certification--many of the problems that I see occurring could be dealt with or at least mitigated by having a certified body.

Are there too many graphic designers? There's too many of nearly everything. Musicians, writers, MBAs ...

But there are too many badly trained pseudo-graphic designers. This is one of the things certification could help a great deal with: bringing up the education level.

I think graphic design is seen as the real-life equivalent of art class. Remember who took art in high school, and the attitude? Easy credit. The number one word I hear among students and new designers to describe this profession is "cool."

It's an indication of how little respect we have as a profession that people think they can be trained to do it in under 2 years and that they think nothing of hiring students to do the work they're still training to do. (Would they hire a dentist who was still in Dental school? A plumber? A business consultant?)

This profession has gone from obscurity and misunderstanding to huge popularity and misunderstanding ... where do we go from here?

On Feb.18.2004 at 12:50 PM
Matt’s comment is:

Art class was cool too... ;)

On Feb.18.2004 at 12:53 PM
graham’s comment is:

yes certification for american graphic designers is a wonderful idea, keep the numbers limited absolutely don't want them overrunning the place they breed like rabbits i'd even be willing to help with establishing laws and rules (especially on what kind of clothes to wear on the third tuesday of every second month and the thickness/density x appropriateness ratio of portfolio sleeves-although actually you can find out about that stuff on speak up if you look hard enough- and also especially rules cementing naive credulity-which is endearing but ultimately ensures that things turn rather moribund) for the castrification of american graphic designers. professionals. forwards! brave american certificated graphisicists! i will stand with or near you as surety pumps hard through your veins, shouting, 'freedom through accreditation' or something close if we can only get it agreed upon in time and passed through the steering committee

On Feb.18.2004 at 12:53 PM
marian’s comment is:

Matt, I too am untrained (unless you count 10 years on-the-job apprenticeship in typesetting books), and by my own rules I would not be allowed to have entered this profession and hang out my shingle as a graphic designer when I did. I point my finger at myself 9 years ago and say, "You! Get your ass into school, now."

On Feb.18.2004 at 12:58 PM
Matt’s comment is:

Just to be evil:

What would happen if certification became the standard and, after two design degrees and 6 years of working in the field, you were told "Sorry, but you don't meet our high certification standards. Please see our list of accredited institutions blah blah blah."

On Feb.18.2004 at 12:58 PM
Matt’s comment is:

"You! Get your ass into school, now."

I've often thought about going back to school, but as I'm still paying off student loans from my first degree and that won't be off the books until 2007... And since I'm employed already, it would feel weird to have to go back then just to prove that I could be employed to do what I'm already doing (my head hurts).

Don't get me wrong, I'd actually LIKE to, but I doubt that it will ever be practical. So how do I get the right to hang my shingle? How does someone who stumbled onto their calling achieve the recognition of their peers?

On Feb.18.2004 at 01:05 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> How does someone who stumbled onto their calling achieve the recognition of their peers?

By doing great work… but that's subjective. So you would pretty much be screwed.

On Feb.18.2004 at 01:10 PM
pk’s comment is:

this is the argument that makes me wonder why i paid the eighteen grand for my degree in the first place. in a marketplace where every goombah with a copy of photoshop is allowed to practise professionally, it's fairly worthless.

certification is one of my favorite ideas as well, but it's not without its problems. the nature of ceritification would more than likely force a valuation of technical skills over conceptual ones, and would probably therefore end up stifling some degree of conceptual brilliance, no matter what standards it upholds.

my partner was never trained as a designer, but he's also possessing of an amazing sensibility of style that's impossible to duplicate. i'd like to see anyone duplicate his sense of texture and color with the same results - it'd never happen. someone with a background like his would doubtless get left behind with certification.

the problem is that it's difficult to portray your conceptual skills as a designer, and the value of those skills are innumerable...yet intangible and fairly uncountable. it would be simpler if there were more companies on the client end who understood the value of an unspoken concept (i'm thinking of the HPs and IBMs of the world), but they are in the minority...and i'm willing to bet their understanding of the nearly ungraspable is what makes them the leaders in their markets.

it seems the only way to thin the herd is to use one's own conceptual skills and sense of style...to never work with a collaborator you see as sub-par. sometimes that's difficult to do, but it also assures that your own sense of style (assuming you have one) helps govern your marketplace.

On Feb.18.2004 at 01:22 PM
Tim Lapetino’s comment is:

Yeah, this hits close to home for me too.

I graduated almost four years ago, with a Journalism degree (Print, not loathsome broadcast...) focusing on Information Graphics (USA Today-type stuff) and Infomation Design (think Edward Tufte). This led me to my first job out of school--in web design, because, frankly, almost anyone could get a web design job back then.

But I spent the next 2.5 years honing my craft, learning as much as I could on the visual side, and also digging deep into print design when I could (and when I got the chance at work). I struck up a great friendship a talented designer/illustrator who graduated with a design degree from the same school. (Also now one of my best friends--I was the best man at his wedding.)

I learned as much as I possibly could from this guy, and also made myself an annoying apprentice to the last art director I worked for.

When I got let go from that job (see: Departmental Restructuing), I started freelancing in both web and print, and indentity redesign (though now I'm loving print a lot more!). I actually make enough in a cool college town to have my own little studio.

But despite this, I too have significant gaps in my education that I'm aware of. So, I read, and study, and pay attention to the great artists and designers who influence me. (Carson, Hillman Curtis, Dave McKean, Lichtenstein, etc...) I'm somewhat obsessed about what I don't know, so I try and learn as much as possible.

But like Matt said earlier in this thread, I can't really go back to school now. Nothing would make me more excited, but I don't know that it's practical at this point. So, is my dislike of "hacks" hypocritical? It drives me nuts that everyone who has learned to use Photoshop considers herself a designer, but from a certain vantage point, that was me a few years ago.

I like the idea of certification, but I wonder if the criteria would keep me out of a profession I love dearly, especially since I feel like I'm now getting respectable in my creative skill level.

On Feb.18.2004 at 01:31 PM
ryan’s comment is:

Thank you Graham, beware of rapid multiplication.

As for Unions, it seems that the very designers who today are calling for such social certification are those most worried about losing their jobs to tinkerers (as I have read it so described) tomorrow. Yes, craft should be a consideration held on high, but where does experimentation come from? As for design in numbers, have we forgotten that design, as we know it, is an arm of the PR industry. In this age of celebrity can we question proportional growth of the design industry? Either way design in numbers should acknowledge pluralism. Design from outside brings interesting qualities, which are overlooked in an inward design perspective.

On Feb.18.2004 at 01:38 PM
Mark Kaufman’s comment is:

Certification my ass. I don't care where you went to school. Who you studied under. Or your philosophical ramblings about the importance of a particular typeface. Shut up already and get to work. If anything this profession is filled with an awful lot of stiffs. Get off you black lacquer soapboxes. Would you really turn away someone with talent, drive and a serious desire to be a graphic designer simply because mommy and daddy didn't fork over wads of cash to send junior to design school? what would certification really do except to ratchet up the pomposity meter on designers to the level of architects? It wouldn't save your job, or your accounts. One of the most encouraging things I see in the design business are those small young shops with a true DIY spirit, starting magazines, clothing lines and printing t shirts.

Certified lunacy.

On Feb.18.2004 at 01:41 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Would you really turn away someone with talent, drive and a serious desire to be a graphic designer simply because mommy and daddy didn't fork over wads of cash to send junior to design school?

No. The problem though, is that there are very little of those to go around. And serious drive does not make up for lack of talent (which, again, is subjective) or design-related knowledge and understanding.

And Mark, certification in the end is more beneficial for our clients than ourselves, but Tan (if he's around) can better explain this notion.

Going back to the original question. Yes, there are too many of us. And I don't mean that as being positive. I'm just glad somebody other than myself dared to raise the question as any time I bring it up I'm called a snob — which I am btw. So thanks Peter and congratulations on your first post.

On Feb.18.2004 at 01:50 PM
ryan’s comment is:

Isn't certification the same as a fixed canon?

On Feb.18.2004 at 01:54 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Okay, this is interesting--

How many designers here feel that your clients don't take you seriously enough, frequently enough? How many times do you find yourself making stupid changes by their orders simply because of what they like or don't like? How many designers wish that more people understood what they do? How many want more respect? Get high & mighty if you want but some of these things count, and not all of us are going to end up in a utopia like office setting where we can do whatever we want to. Few people ever can.

Plus, if AIGA conferences are any indication, a lot of people feel this way. It's why graphic designers often look like a scrambling, disorganized mess in dire need of direction and even purpose. Personally I think you should find it yourself, but its gone on long enough that maybe there's a reason for why this happens.

If you wonder why clients tend to do whatever their lawyers and accountants tell them, there's a reason for it--they're "certified." Love it or hate it, agree or disagree, it makes a difference. Being a designer is no "easier" than either of those professions, but for as long as any hack can walk into this field, can win jobs by under-bidding and hucking Kinko's-quality work, expect a lot of the same problems to persist.

Am I in favor of certification? Grudgingly, yes, and I think there's a way to make it happen without stifling conceptual brilliance. SOME parts of this profession ARE objective and there are elements that are black & white. Maybe its not the answer, I'm not saying that it is for sure, but there's no harm in exploring it a little bit.

Anyone who disagrees should familiarize themselves with Edward Tufte, especially his tirades against PowerPoint. I have no idea what his stance is on "certification" or if he gives a fuck, but he more than anyone demonstrates that in some aspects...there's a right and wrong way.

On Feb.18.2004 at 01:58 PM
Rick Moore’s comment is:

What Bradley said.

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:10 PM
Mark Kaufman’s comment is:

Armin, 2 comments.

I would say that design related knowledge and understanding cannot be learned in school. That will only come in real world situations dealing with so called problem clients.

No one need explain who certification is good for. Is it to make clients more comforatble? Those other professions that deal with certification (accountants, lawyers, architects) deal with fiduciary, legal and structural matters that designers do not. I do not beleive that being certified would automatically impart talent or knowledge or gravitas on anyone.

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:19 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> I would say that design related knowledge and understanding cannot be learned in school. That will only come in real world situations dealing with so called problem clients.

Then the client better be Paul Rand because I don't see how any client can impart design related knowledge and understanding like color theory (other than my wife likes red) or the difference between modernism and post-modernism or what is good and bad typography, much less be able to explain the process of how to arrive at a concept through sketching, exploration of words and images, etc. If this is something that a client can teach or things that can't be learned in college I'll keep my mouth shut.

I do not beleive that being certified would automatically impart talent or knowledge or gravitas on anyone.

I don't believe so either, but it will keep those who don't have it uncertified.

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:34 PM
marian’s comment is:

but I wonder if the criteria would keep me out of a profession I love dearly,

As Armin said, "No." Ontario now has a registered status for Graphic Designers. The only actual work that they are restricted from doing unless they're registered is, I believe, Government work. (Read all about it here), but as they increase their profile the incentive to become registered is high. The public gradually learns that there is a difference.

Members who were practicing design already were essentially grandfathered in. This has its drawbacks, but it is the only fair solution. When BC gets accreditation (when, not if), I, by virtue of having been in design for 9 years and already being a proffession member of the GDC, will be a shoe-in. I don't have to go back to school.

But after that point they will probably only recognize students coming out of 4 year programs. Once again, there will still be no law against someone starting up their own shop and winging it (and probably someone who does that successfully for 5-10 years could apply to be registered), but I do think that recognition among the public that this is a profession will increase.

As for the wildly creative individuals who would be somehow stifled by having to get some education and become accredited ... what a load of bollocks. Tell it to Frank Gehry. I'm a wildly creative individual and it wouldn't have hurt me one goddamned bit to learn about the history, the business, the theory and the craft of design, and to have spent 4 years working with and learning from people who were interested in the same. And believe me, it would have saved my first clients some grief as well.

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:39 PM
Peter Scherrer (ps)’s comment is:

i figured the discussion would deal with certification, automatically. but then, i don't know if that was my intention. i think that is a topic on its own. but based on the reaction the response seems to be that "yes, there are too many". even though i placed the post, and raised the question, i believe maybe there are not too many. good and bad will probably go their separate ways automatically. otherwise, if there is no automatic separation -- why force one. and if you believe your skills are good or better than those of others -- prove it. build on that difference.

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:42 PM
surts’s comment is:

glad to see you joined the team ps.

I'd offer that there's too many designers out there that feel they're owed something while contributing little to the industry and mention that there's not enough business savvy design entrepreneurs that are making something from nothing.

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:43 PM
Paul’s comment is:

The desire for certification seems to me rooted in insecurity. If you can't prove your worth on the strength of your own work and ability to communciate with a client then all the framed parchment in the world ain't gonna do it for you. Is it the dilution of the Designer´┐Ż "brand" by hacks that is threatening? Perhaps, but lawyers need certification and even a little exposure to practitioners of that craft reveals that competence and certification are by no means partners by definition.

And I'm not too bothered by a profusion of designers. If some of us shake out and turn into marketing managers or brand specialists or used car dealers, well then there are more "civilians" who will recognize the value of good design. Excuse my capitalism, but I believe in competition. It's fun sometimes, scary other times, frustrating often, but I like it. (Makes winning feel real good, too.)

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:45 PM
Mark Kaufman’s comment is:

i believe that was my point. That although you can learn theory in school, too often you have to deal with people that care more about matching the red in their bathroom than about why you came to the conclusion that their identity should utilize green.

And the certification debate does seem snobbish. If certification were to become the law of the land, there will certainly be a black market for crap design lowering your living standard anyway. Not to mention the fact that design jobs certified or not will be offloaded to Singapore to keep costs down.

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:49 PM
Matt’s comment is:

I've been surprised (and selfishly pleased) to see a few other people with non-design educations. I'd be interested (perhaps in a different thread?) to hear what those educations/degrees are, how you got into design, and whether you feel that those educations/degrees have benn a help or a hindrance to your careers in design.

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:52 PM
brook’s comment is:

there are too many of us, certification is generally a good idea.

but at what point do we just have to blame the idiots who are hiring these crappy designers? of course, that is easier said than done. it can be very hard for a non-creative to know what they are getting into. i guess if there were a way to really saturate the business world with the aiga-type advice of the value of a good designer and how to identify and hire one, that would be the way to go.

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:57 PM
Aaron’s comment is:

"what would certification really do except to ratchet up the pomposity meter on designers to the level of architects?"


Art class ruled.

I do think that schooling is irrelevant to some extent. Can two year schools turn out good designers? You bet your ass they can. Can a self-taught designer be better than a designer with an MBA? Absolutely. I've seen both instances.

Hell, my boss tells me all the time that I'm the best designer he's ever worked with. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but the point is, the person I replaced didn't do the greatest work (to put it nicely), made twice as much as me, and is now a teacher for graphic design.

On Feb.18.2004 at 02:57 PM
KM’s comment is:

I'm all for certification. Perhaps in this organization you could receive a license to practice not unlike physicians and lawyers.

…in a marketplace where every goombah with a copy of photoshop is allowed to practise professionally…

Of course, only those with this license could purchase graphic design software.

On Feb.18.2004 at 03:01 PM
Peter Scherrer (ps)’s comment is:

Maybe, in his spare time, Armin could start a certification process. If you get approved by Speak Up, you could put a stamp on your businesscards "Speak Up rated" that would go right next to the Zagat rating and the AAA aproval.

But then maybe we are searching to far. There is a sort of certification already...some could put an M.F.A. next to their name, others a B.F.A. isn't that certification enough? If you are an AIGA member, you're supposed to adhere to some standards, isn't that a sort of certification as well, that at least offers some level of professionalism.

Further, what about having all these options and choices of designers. I thought thats what a free market place was about.

Some clients care about quality, others don't. And based on that -- i'm wildly guessing here --these clients will select their designer. I don't think in a field as subjective as ours a fair certification is possible. Just like the design annuals, crap goes in and good stuff is left out.

On Feb.18.2004 at 03:26 PM
Greg’s comment is:

Yeah right KM....you think Adobe or Macromedia would agree to that? Half their bread and butter comes from hacks.

I tend to be waffley on this subject, and, as my esteemed father would say, "The only thing you get from riding the fence is a butt full of splinters." So, time to come down.

I think that design can't be certified. Portfolios rule this profession, and I, graduate of a 4 year state school, love it. It's one of the only true, honest professions where a Harvard degree doesn't get you squat, but a marketing degree from Podunk State A&M and a great portfolio can get you an interview anywhere. Certification implies that we fear those who do bad work.

On Feb.18.2004 at 03:29 PM
aUSTIN’s comment is:

There are way to many "designers" and not enough "good" designers. Certification won't get rid of the bad design or bad designers because so many clients already have an idea of what they want and whether it's good or bad design they are not going to accept anything except what they have in there head. If a certified person will try changing their mind they will go else where to get what they want.

Of course, only those with this license could purchase graphic design software.

If that were to happen you would probably elimante 80% of the good upcoming designers who can't afford school so they won't be able to learn the software needed to become certified, thus destroying the design industry, and with the design industry gone we(designers) would all go insane looking at the bad package design and shitty advertising like: "pants, like shorts only longer". I would have to start an army of mislead youths who couldn't get a cracked copy of photoshop to learn their true calling and we'd try to take over the world. but I'm no soilder so the future looks bleak for me.

On Feb.18.2004 at 03:33 PM
Joe Franks’s comment is:

Who wants to be a layer?

I mean seriously.

I started making websites and doing odd jobs for people when I was 16. Why? Because I could do it, and people were stupid enough to pay me for it. Could I have ever done this if certification was a major part of our industry?

I'm 22 now and working through the art core at a decent visual arts program. I started school because after working for six years I saw what I was missing without a formal education.

I would have never, ever, thought about graphic design as a career if it was bundled with 4+years of school and certification.

I did it because I could and because it was fun.

Now that I'm in school, I'm starting to see that those years of fucking up and experimentation allowed me build a strong understanding of visual language and style. I know that school will never teach me these things. Only improve on what I have. I'm terribly excited to bust my ass make amazing things for people.


Would you rather see our industry filled with people who really give a shit.

Or doctors and lawyers?

And if you were losing work to me when I was sixteen.

That's your problem.

On Feb.18.2004 at 03:35 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

there are too many of us

We are all designers. Everyone one of us. Each human, monkeys, a few birds, and...imagine a few other critters. I don't know how we can have 'too many'. Design is a big part of what defines us as a species.

Some of us are trained on a particular design focus (like graphic design). All that certification could do is to certify that we have had training, which says nothing of one's talents as a visual designer, nor the quality of the training, for that matter.

The only people that benefit from certification are the certifiers. That and the certificate printers and, if it's a fancy certificate, maybe a few calligraphers.

Everything else is subjective and rather pointless to begin figuring out how to judge.

On Feb.18.2004 at 03:58 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

Matt: English degree from a state school. But you can't keep a designer from designing.

Graham: heh.

On Feb.18.2004 at 04:02 PM
Matt’s comment is:

I guess I should pony up since I'm asking:

Bachelor of Education (Visual Art & Art History)

And I think that having been an educator is actually a big help with design. Not only did I study all the history, fundamentals and practice of making art and specific visual and content decisions, but also how to explain all that stuff and get people fired up about it.

I often wonder if I missed anything by not attending design school, but I'm beginning to suspect that it might have been better the way things ultimately panned out - besides, I can now throw on the potter's wheel as well as create named colours in InDesign.

On Feb.18.2004 at 04:10 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

rebecca: me too, exactly.

On Feb.18.2004 at 04:15 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

...and welcome, peter! so glad you are with us.

On Feb.18.2004 at 04:16 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I’m certain this will seem rude so my apologies in advance.

The discussion of certification is doomed because the discussion embodies the same problems that proponents of certification claim to be trying to solve. A sense of history, logical procedure, analysis, professionalism. . . will, we are told, all emerge from certification.

This discussion has a history. It was seriously discussed by Ellen Shapiro over a decade ago in the AIGA Journal and in Communication Arts.. Her arguments were careful and well-reasoned. She laid out the case for certification clearly so others could respond logically. I responded (negatively) to them in Print.

Ellen and I laid a logical groundwork for discussion. We raised important philosophical and practical points. As far as I’ve seen, nobody has tried to build on that base. The discussion has never been raised to the level it was in the first five minutes of Ellen’s advocacy.

The conversation has shifted slightly. Maybe that’s because the problem has shifted; I don’t know. It does amuse me that my article in Print (which, by the way, was reproduced, along with Ellen’s Communication Arts article, in Looking Closer 2) identified the presumptive “them” (i.e., not real designers) by their association with technical magazines like Publish:

—Certainly Shapiro’s “whole list of technical material”—postal regulations and production information. Are these the things that distinguish “Us” from the mere desktop publishers? The assumption is that “real” designers will do better on an objective test than someone who buys a Mac and religiously reads Publish magazine. My suspicion is that the opposite is true.

The conversation then was that computer jockeys were taking work from “real” designers. A few years later the issue had pretty much faded out only to be raised again by, ironically enough, Publish. First we actual designers were being put out of work by people who thought they were designers because they knew keyboard combinations in QuarkXPress. A few years later the problem was that there were people claiming to be designers who didn’t know keyboard combinations for QuarkXPress.

The first entry in this discussion refers to Gene Gable as if his rather superficial advocacy were the genesis of this issue. That’s not surprising since he seems to think so. So much for history, logical procedure, analysis, and professionalism.

I had a long conversation with Ellen when we were in Vancouver for the AIGA conference. She has long since decided that certification isn’t worthy of time or consideration (and is rightly miffed that her large body of worthy writing is mainly known in some quarters for her certification article.) Strangely enough, I don’t find it to be quite as stupid of an idea as I used to. I do still fear, however, that any implementation of the idea would be a disaster. The nature of discussions (and not just this one) of the subject reinforce that fear.

On Feb.18.2004 at 04:19 PM
steve’s comment is:

One thing I clearly don't understand about the certification is WHY? Really, why would we choose to do this? Every argument I hear for certification sounds more to me like we're trying to protect our turf, or cloister ourselves away in some ivory tower.

"Hack" designers can't sustain a career because they cannot meet the needs or their clients or employers.

"Good" designer's careers flourish because they serve their clients well.

We have to deal with the fact that our profession is all about survival of the fittest. The cream rises to the top.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that there's no real necessity or practical reasoning behind certification for designers.

On Feb.18.2004 at 04:21 PM
marian’s comment is:

you're supposed to adhere to some standards, isn't that a sort of certification as well, that at least offers some level of professionalism.

The pertinent words in the above sentence are "supposed to". If you are a member of the AIGA and "agree" to certain principles, but don't in fact practice those principles, there's nothing the AIGA can do about it.

I wasn't in generally in favour of accreditation before I joined the board of the GDC. But now, as representative of my own design community I am frustrated when we receive complaints about designers from clients, and there's nothing we can do; I'm frustrated that students claim that some companies are "preying on them" by hiring them for low wages in work-for-hire contracts (and then the students are mad because they got paid $200 to do an identity system for said client), and we have neither the resources to educate the business community at large, nor to ensure proper business education of designers.

And don't give me that free-market, fair competition CRAP. Accreditation has nothing to with limiting competition. It is not about a bunch of us sitting around being fearful of our jobs and trying to build some kind of wall. Do architects suffer from lack of free-market competition? Use your head.

The movement for accreditation in THIS country (Canada), anyway is to have the ability to enforce professional standards, influence the quality of teaching, and increase awareness in the community about what it is we do and how.

Talk about insecurity ... I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want a body that can go to bat for them and raise the awareness of their profession. Unless you're so insecure you think they wouldn't let you in.

What the fuck is this profession? Everyone's a designer? Right -- cause design is just decoration anyway, and anyone with access to Quark Xpress, or Corel Draw and some fonts can do it, right?

On Feb.18.2004 at 04:42 PM
Armin’s comment is:


…I mean wrong, wrong.

On Feb.18.2004 at 05:01 PM
Peter Scherrer (ps)’s comment is:

marian, why the bitchy bitchy tone.

The pertinent words in the above sentence are "supposed to". If you are a member of the AIGA and "agree" to certain principles, but don't in fact practice those principles, there's nothing the AIGA can do about it.

I beg to differ. AIGA can educate about the benefits of using AIGA members, request that job agreements are based on aiga standards, they can monitor based on client and designer feedback if things went smoothly or not. It might take some effort and campaign to launch it, but it can be done. fuck, even eBay can run freely.

On Feb.18.2004 at 05:02 PM
marian’s comment is:

First we actual designers were being put out of work by people who thought they were designer

You can't control quality. There will always be people who are better, more creative, more whatever and they will rise to the top. I'm not afraid of the hacks. I'm not worried about them taking my job. That's not the point.

Surts, I didn't understand your comment, but I'm wondering if it's different here in Canada. E.g. in Vancouver, we have about 2,000 graphic designers. 200 of them are members of the GDC. Do we want to keep the other 1,800 out? NO. We want them to join. But why would they? We have a few events, and give out some newsetters. Big deal. But if we could support them with legal issues; promote their profession in the community; have a standard for basic outlines of education; have a resource centre; have an office where they can get advice; have guidelines for working with clients, to protect our reputation; and have bigger and better events ... well that would be great. Can we even start on that with 200 members? No. So how do we get them to join? We offer them something really big: Accreditation.

On Feb.18.2004 at 05:06 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

What the fuck is this profession? Everyone's a designer?

Yes, Marian...everyone *is* a designer. Not everyone does it for a living, though.

OK, so your points/concerns are valid, but how does accreditation solve any of them? I'm not sure how a certificate really enforces anything on anyone.

On Feb.18.2004 at 05:10 PM
marian’s comment is:

marian, why the bitchy bitchy tone.

Hot under the collar.

Besides. I'm almost never bitchy here. I'm always so fucking "let's all get along, let's be moderate and polite" like the Canadian I am. Fuck it. Today I'm going to be bitchy, Ok? Actually, right now I'm going away and I'm not returning for hours and hours.

On Feb.18.2004 at 05:11 PM
surts’s comment is:

marian, how did I get caught up in your maelstrom? What aspect of my comment was confusing to you.

On Feb.18.2004 at 05:38 PM
KM’s comment is:

Yeah right KM....you think Adobe or Macromedia would agree to that? Half their bread and butter comes from hacks.

Greg - I was only half kidding. I would say half their losses are from these hacks owning illegal software.

On Feb.18.2004 at 06:01 PM
Paul’s comment is:

Even though I stand behind pretty much all of things that Marian was railing against I have no problem with her "bitchy tone" (OUCH: the sexism meter was redlining on that one, dude.) We should all care enough to get passionately carried away occasionally.

But Marian, how can you really believe accredation has NOTHING to do with competition? It is a way of delineating an "us" from a "them," and casting "them" in an unfavorable light. I admit it has other useful functions, but as a marketing tool it's power is pretty obvious, I think.

Hell, you are even proposing using it as a marketing tool for the GDC! (There are other clubs that you can only join when you have qualified, too: "Gold" credit cards, airline's Admiral's Clubs, etc.) Exclusivity as a marketing tool is nothing new or especially insidious, but it seems pretty cynical to use it to convince people to join something that is supposedly for their own good.

On Feb.18.2004 at 06:07 PM
Steve’s comment is:

Reading some of the above statements, I'm not sure if some people are looking for "certification" or a "union" of sorts.

If it's a union we're looking the AIGA is halfway there. We pay dues, get a salary survey and have access to ingo about standard practices, business and ethics. But, do we really want to start picketing clients who use the services of non-AIGA designers?

Maybe we need to push the AIGA to act more like the American Institute of Architects (AIA). I actually heard a radio spot on the way home today for the AIA. Where's my AIGA advertisment? Oh, sorry, they spent that cash on a little orange 2004 date book/call for entries. (Didn't 2004 start about two months ago?)

So, let's compare ourselves to architects for a second. They endure rigorous testing just to be able to truly practice as a "registered architect". Why? Because if an architect screws up, people could die. Same with doctors. Lawyers take the Bar exam because if they drop the ball, people could go to jail. In these professions, it is not an option to be unqualified.

When it comes to design, I think the "free market" mentality is dead-on. Design darwinism.

How do you qualify an individual as a "registered designer" anyway. Quark proficiency? An exam on production knowledge? On some level, the difference between good designer and bad is subjective.

On Feb.18.2004 at 06:08 PM
Su’s comment is:

I am, I assume, the partner referenced above *grin*

I guess that first of all, there's a confusion here as to what the supposed accreditation would involve. I admit that I've scanned so far, but there seems to be the assumption that it would be an in or out sort of deal, like say, practicing law. What about the possibility of something more like software being Microsoft-certified, where they simply can't and won't answer for anything that isn't? Those idiots in their moms' basements with pirated Adobe software can continue to do what they do, and anybody who hires them assumes the responsibility for the results. Those who are accredited(more on this below) have a certain amount of pre-installed reputability and are accountable for their work to some overseeing body. Everybody happy, no?

what a load of bollocks. [...]I'm a wildly creative individual and it wouldn't have hurt me one goddamned bit to learn about the history [...]and to have spent 4 years working with and learning from people who were interested in the same.

I've got to take issue with some of this. Knowledge is good, however, I can't express to you how absolutely crippling I find most schooling, which is not the same activity as learning. I simply can't function in the environment.

So why not allow for an apprenticeship path in all of this? Note that your own phrasing above doesn't particularly reference "school." For various reasons, financial/personal/etc., the school system is not an option for some people. Frankly, I'd think that the knowledge they'd have to work, and do it well, would be more of a deterrent to the people you want to get rid of than just an accredication process. On the other side, the accredited don't get an ivory tower, but are directly responsible for the weeding out.

All of that blathering done, I don't presume to call myself a designer, a word I dislike about as much as "artist" and find about as pretentious, due in equal measure to the untrained and the elitist. I have little interest in history of any sort, which of course means that I end up reading lots of it(very well, I contradict myself).

I make things sometimes, and they vary in degree of usefulness or purpose. Good enough for me.

On Feb.18.2004 at 07:19 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Graham, that was an exquisite bit of sarcasm!


There are too many of us designers, but that's just the way it is. And we all need to just get over it already.

"Hack" designers can't sustain a career because they cannot meet the needs or their clients or employers.

"Good" designer's careers flourish because they serve their clients well.

We have to deal with the fact that our profession is all about survival of the fittest. The cream rises to the top.

How do you qualify an individual as a "registered designer" anyway. Quark proficiency? An exam on production knowledge? On some level, the difference between good designer and bad is subjective.

I completely agree with these statements! [and not because we have the same name. ;-) ]

As others in this thread have also mentioned, a client that uses an "unqualified" hack does so at his own detriment and risk. And that client probably wouldn't want to spend the money to use a "qualified" professional anyway.

And unless there's some sort of big legal or monetary penalty, the client would still go ahead and use unqualified people. And, that certification law would probably have to be a national law in order to have any teeth. And, the likelihood of this happening is essentially nill.

And here's an interesting thought: Having a certification program isn't going to stop the inflow of people into our profession. Besides, is it necessarily a bad thing to have a little competition?

And, we already have a certification of sorts right now. It's called a portfolio! And it works remarkably well. But maybe you might want more qualification. Okay, how about a BFA or a MFA? Want even more certification? How about design awards or published articles? Or maybe a weighty design tomb? Or, or... You get my point.

These all seem to work pretty well right now, as a means of judging ability and professionalism. Why add more pointless complications to our already complicated and demanding profession?

On Feb.18.2004 at 08:01 PM
Steven’s comment is:

And KM, as someone who knows about Macromedia from the inside, they don't really care that much about small-time pirated software, unless you flaunt it in their face. But otherwise, they're going after bigger fish like counterfeit duplication operations.

And, lemme tell ya, the software industry would absolutely NOT support any sort of limitations to their ability to sell their product to anyone. It's all about market-share with them. So that little fantasy should just quietly dissipate.

On Feb.18.2004 at 08:15 PM
Michael’s comment is:

Perception is a funny thing. Seems all you have to do is say "new & better" just right and all of a sudden perception will improve. But get close enough and you might see that "new & better" is just a fancy way of saying "old & the same" in which case it may be time to get a new slogan.

That, and I feel it's important to point out that Gunnar Swanson was among the first to mount a dead horse.

On Feb.18.2004 at 10:52 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Forget software. Forget media. Forget about clients and business talk and savy interpersonal skills. Certification will happen. In fact, I already feel that it has. There is a delineation between the haves and have nots, which is what certification does. We have classes or subtribes within the tribe of design. Below the belt of visual communication design sits a wealth of options from advertising to film titles to wayfinding design to environmental design to what some are calling experience design. And within each of those are groups of people, subcultures that work and interact amongst each other. Advertising has the brand people, publication folks, media gurus, web developers, etc. They don't dance around in the graphic design dance clubs. Internet savy designers and engineers could care less about print, so they go to the cafes with their friends and folks. Sound compartmentalized? It is. That's what certification does to. It places people into nice little groups. Look at medicine. You won't find an orthopedic surgeon doing a gastrointestinal bypass. It's the same in design, although some argue that designers can tackle any problem on any platform with any media. Would certification prevent people from claim jumping? Letting one designer leap into another media or problem-solving endeavor? Give me a break. God forbid we have this sense of order. That would be terrible because the beauty of design is in its breadth.

Certification has more value in educational realms. Rather than have professional certifications, schools should have a delineated set of courses that fall within some standard. This works best at the undergraduate level because a large percentage of schools are preparatory. They get design youth ready for working. Give them software. Give them typography. Give them a choice of directions: graphic design, pubilcation design, information design, internet design, environmental design, advertising design, brand development, etc. Graduate research on the other hand must be unique. Each school should have its own merits and empower students to strengthen their own voice. Special characteristics of those grad programs would entice students with experimental and research driven agendas the students define.

Accreditation on the professional level is ludicrous. Want to certify? Do it on the academic level. Start developing better ways to make better students because once they get into the profession, they shouldn't need certification. If they do, then they don't belong.

On Feb.18.2004 at 11:22 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Well this is interesting.

The only hurdle to certification that *I* see is that there's not an immediately obvious method of testing for it. Architects, lawyers and doctors all have a set of standards that are pretty clear cut: you either know the law or you don't, you either get anatomy or don't, you can either make the building stand up or you can't. There are multiple choice questions with a clear-cut right and wrong answer for many things in their professions. At the same time, many of the things they do and judgments they make are subjective. Not all architects have to be as skilled as Frank Gehry in order to practice. And speaking of Gehry, he abides by the rules he needs to and ignores the ones he doesn't--but, bottomline, he KNOWS them all, and that's what matters. It's assumed, rightly so, that he knows what he's doing.

The biggest mistake that people make with design is that they assume its all subjective. It's not. No way no how. Take a quick look at Tufte's "Cognitive Style of PowerPoint," in which he reveals that PP is displays as much information coherently as the commie newsrag Pravda, and points out a critical piece of information that no one at NASA looked at regarding the Columbia disaster because it was so unclear in the presentation made by Boeing engineers. Additionally, its a fact that certain character counts per line are more readable, hierarchy is usually pretty clear cut, certain color combinations read poorly, so on and so forth.

Everyone is NOT a designer--that's like saying because I play golf from time to time, I'm a golfer. Everyone designs at some point, and most of them do it poorly. Just as my handicap exceeds par for standard golf courses.

Most designers I know spend an inordinate amount of energy complaining about how awful other design is--"that kerning blows!" "who chose those colors?! Richard Little?" "Use smart quotes, dammit!" We designers (males and females) are a bitchy little bunch, we get on people's asses for using standard Helvetica instead of the Neue version, we whack folks on the head with an em dash for assuming that Geneva or Comic Sans are the best typefaces. It's often been said that aside from opera singers and ballet dancers, graphic designers are the most vain people on the planet. I wonder why that is.

So either the complaining is valid or its not--if its not valid, then we need to forget about the hack desktop publishers and let them be. Period the end. Because there's no justification for complaining about hacks if what they do doesn't matter. But its not just hacks, it also applies to the clients who push type around or change colors or fuck with the whole layout, concept, and whatever else. With some sort of certification process, that shit GOES AWAY.

I however believe that these things do matter. I believe that shitty design, in addition to cheapening culture (remember when Chicago passed that act demanding quality architecture for the city's skyscrapers and other buildings? Not a bad idea), incoherent communication can be lethal. It goes beyond the illegitimate election of George W., it can bleed off into anything else that we talk about, any sort of exchange of ideas and information, be they financial, scientific, or even commercial. In this day and age especially, when so much depends on intangible pieces of data, this is no small matter. I'm not saying design is going to save the world, but I am saying it fucking matters.

This all goes back to the accountability and responsibility discussion that we...sort of had on this forum. And it harkens back to the "Who am I what am I doing where am I going with my life with this whole design thing???" crap that we now dedicate entire conferences to.

The fact is, with the influence of paid media decreasing, the role design plays in business will increase. Burger King just handed CP+B their $350 million account which will primarily feature...design! Because TV commercials don't work like they used to! Others have been doing this for some time (MINI), and expect more in the near future. Corporations are shilling out MAJOR bucks for work that they demand will contribute to their business. The more responsibility you're willing to take on, the more power you can weild and the more money you can make. C'mon people...AIGA called their last design conference "The Power of Design." Now someone tell me what the fuck that means. There's an opportunity for design to be as powerful as we all say we want it to be. But guess what? Its not a free ride, and if you want it, then suffer what you have to and make some sacrifices. You actually have to set some boundaries and make tough choices.

I guarantee that design will never be widely seen as powerful, respectable, or valuable for as long as anyone out there can do it without proving they "get it." The field has been maturing, I know that if "certification" had been in place 20 years ago we would have missed out on some good things, but that's growth for ya--the more I think about it, the more I realize SOMETHING needs to happen.

Either that or we need to shut the fuck up about the shitty design we don't like and how sick we are of being underbid or being asked to do spec work.

On Feb.18.2004 at 11:25 PM
krf’s comment is:


I'm not going to top that one, but I will say that we are proving ourselves each day, for better or for worse. We have to. The judgement is in our work, not in some test. Unfortunately, this is a "what have you done for me lately" kind of business and I have to "prove" myself constantly with the work I do (design, communication, business and more).

Just as there are lousy designers, there are lousy doctors, attorneys and other "certified" professionals. Sorry to break it to some folks, but we're not all meant to design, publish, practice law or ______________, and we have to find our niche and do it well (I'm *still* searching...). Make a positive difference somewhere, dammit.

We all work on different levels and have our strengths and weakness, but it all gets sorted out in due time.

Get out there and prove you're worth it and stop the hand wringing!

(great topic, btw.)

On Feb.18.2004 at 11:59 PM
Jason’s comment is:

"Long time listener, first time caller"

Two things, First off I don't believe any designer is going to lower their pricing structure enough, especially after paying for for years of schooling, to actually be able to serve the low end clients that utilize the majority of these ”hacks, and uneducated designers.” These client don't, or won't spend their money on design,and are going to continue to go to the lowball designers, and why is that? Which brings me to my second statement. They don't know or understand design, and the power it has. It is much like modern art, how often have you heard the statement, ”I don't like, my 5 year old could do that.” It is a statement made by someone who is uneducated about the context of why, and this is most likely because of the eliteism in the art community, but i digress. I believe this is lack of education is even stronger when applied to design. There are no museums that can educate the public about the power of good design. There is no required class that educates the public of the power of good design, and I have yet to see a public campaign promoting good design. People are ignorant of it, and this is why no one cares. So until people/clients are educated in why design matters, and what it can do for them, they are not going to spend money on it, or they will get their twelve year old, ”who is good on that computer thing” to do it.

The people who understand the relative value of design spend money on design, the rest go to kinko's.

On Feb.19.2004 at 01:23 AM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

No one addressed Gunnar's comment, which may have been the most constructive. The problem, again, is with attempting to discuss issues when most designers have no knowledge of how discourse works.

It might be interesting (not for me, necessarily) to build on the existing base of discussion. I, for one, can't seem to find access to these articles.

The importance of this issue for me is that it raises the question of "what is a graphic designer?" We can't even consider certification if we don't understand what we do. It certainly seems to me that it is enough like architecture that it could be codified (I imagine a big book like the AIA's with diagrams showing what sizes of type are readable on a billboard from 200 feet away, etc). But graphic designers, I think, are resistant to such a thing because they ENJOY the John Wayne feeling. Maybe.

Sure, artists like Gehry can work within the rules. And that is a very interesting and thought-provoking point. I don't know what to make of it.

I'd rather not even consider certification, because I'm an anarchist. But I am interested in what makes for a true graphic designer, in the spiritual sense, not as whether or not you are a "competent" (in the business sense) producer.

Of course, if part of being a true designer means to be able to understand and engage with the discourse (both verbal and visual), then the true designer is likely to be competent. But discussion of certification is rarely about THIS kind of competency, and probably can't be. Many architects I've met are completely ignorant of the discursive elements behind their certification, and they are very difficult to consider as being much more than draftsmen. This is much like how many "graphic designers" are difficult to consider as more than production people.

p.s. I've been accused of not having a point, of arguing in circles. I am interested in free thinking, and thought indeed is hard to ground in traditional ways once you reject authoritative viewpoints. I would lapse into mysticism if I didn't also reject that... which leaves me searching...

plug -I've been trying to make my blog more substantial (although it's still not really geared toward becoming a true public space), and I will attempt to keep it fresh, for any of you who might be interested in talking about anarchistic, irreverent, Design Savage-related issues. My name is clickable.

On Feb.19.2004 at 01:34 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

>Are there too many of us?

>There are too many of us designers, but that's just the way it is.

I find the question that Peter has presented so interesting, as well as the answer above. What really intrigues me, however, is why this question is being asked in the first place. Does anyone ever ask if there are too many musicians in the world? Or poets? Does anyone go into a Supersized Barnes & Noble or Virgin Megastore and worry about the number of choices being presented? (forget the idea that it might be daunting, I am talking about fear of options)

So what are we really worried about? Is it that there are too many of us, or is it that not enough of us are making a difference?

On Feb.19.2004 at 07:28 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Clearly, the answer is that we need to start drawing straws. Short straw gets their mouse smashed and looses their Starbucks Coffee Club card.

That'll keep our numbers in check.

On Feb.19.2004 at 08:49 AM
Rob Bennett’s comment is:

Seems like I'm coming at the tail end of this post, and I didn't read all 60, and if anyone actually gets to read this, I'd be surprised.

I too come from a non-design background. I started out with a Journalism/Advertising degree and worked for seven years as a copy writer. In that period of time I went from working on an IBM PC in Word, to a Varitype 360(? sorry can't remember the exact model) typesetting machine and finally a electronic paste-up sytem put out by DuPont in the 80's called Breeze. I went from just writing the word to being amazed at the power of image and type together. That lead me to further explore my capabilities as a designer and I did go back to school to get a Master's in Publication Design.

That being said, I feel that one of the problem we as professional designers face is that the proliferation of desktop publishing systems has diminished the reputuation of our field. I think it's important that client's do look at us the same way they would look at an architect. A perfect example of this, in my mind, is the fact that I am being left out of our current brand strategy meetings despite asking and explaining why I should be in those meetings. To me it's just like not inviting an architect to a meeting about a new building you are going to have them design. I feel that certification is a way to re-legitamize the field and separate us from people who are merely desktop publishers working with predrawn templates in Word or Publisher, or whatever it is they work with.

Is this snobbish? Is the elitism? No. I think this is a natural progression of a profession that has seen access to it become much more open and easier to obtain due to the changes in the technology and production. In the past, one really had to understand how to work with a type house, a service bureau, how to create a comped board of art that would be sent to the printer. All of this has gotten 'easier' but what people don't understand is that you still have to understand how type and image work together to tell the story that your client is paying you to tell. And let's face it, there's a lot of bad design out there and in my mind, it brings our reputation down a notch.

I think certification in the client's eye would help separate designers from desktop publishers and I would be one to support such a move.


On Feb.19.2004 at 09:05 AM
len’s comment is:

Shut up already and get to work. If anything this profession is filled with an awful lot of stiffs. Get off you black lacquer soapboxes.

Here, here.

Certification is for people who save lives or allocate huge sums of capital. Not people who push pixels around.

What will certification bring to design as a profession? Pretention? Some of us have that in spades already. Stratification, based not necessarily upon skill but privelage? Don't need that. A logo patch to sew on your black turtleneck and boost your fragile ego? Come on now.

Sure, I've been underbid by someone's cousin's fiance's brother who just got a new Dell with PS Elements. But in that situation, you have to just walk away, because that potential client didn't want "design," he wanted ink on paper. No amount of color theory or treatises on the virtues of DIN vs. Comic Sans, or even certification, is going to change that.

On Feb.19.2004 at 09:33 AM
brook’s comment is:

Sure, I've been underbid by someone's cousin's fiance's brother who just got a new Dell with PS Elements. But in that situation, you have to just walk away, because that potential client didn't want "design,"...

i want to agree with that. but i still think it is very difficult for a non-designer to know what they are supposed to be looking for. many well intentioned business people are getting duped, i'm sure.

so, i think instead of focusing on bringing everyone on our side to a certain minimum level through certification or otherwise, we need to really put our efforts into further educating the business community. how to identify and hire a good designer.

On Feb.19.2004 at 09:49 AM
steve’s comment is:

In a previous post someone mentioned being left out of a brand strategy meeting in spite of all his protests. Do you really think a certificate or a suffix after your name would fix that? I doubt it.

At the AIGA conference in Vancouver, there was an awful alot of talk about why designers are left out of the important discussions that shape our world. The answer is simple - because we are so busy navel-gazing that we forget that we need to convince others via our ACTIONS that we can be useful as communicators, not just pixel pushers. No body is going to invite you to the board meeting unless they think you have something to say, certification or not.

I mentioned this earlier, but I heard a radio spot for the American Institute of Architects yesterday and the the focus wasn't "AIA architects build good buildings". They were saying "When Philadelphia was unsure about how to develop its waterfront, they created a team of politicians, lawyers, activists, and artists. To bring them all together, they turned to the AIA". They went on the talk about themselves as facilitators and communicators rather than just architects.

That's the right attitude.

On Feb.19.2004 at 09:59 AM
brook’s comment is:

i think good designers are doing that, steve. would you agree with me that educating the business world on how to identify who is capable of doing that is the key?

On Feb.19.2004 at 10:10 AM
steve’s comment is:

I'm with you, Brook.

That's why I took the time to share the AIA radio spot example. They are using their money for paid advertisments that expand their role.

If anything, graphic designers are communicators and facilitators, probably more-so than architects. Why aren't we selling ourselves as such on a broad level?

I think that we tend to forget what makes us designers. It's not good taste, or Quark shortcuts, or a propensity to wear black. It's a mindset. The ability to arrange information or ideas in a way that is clear and productive. We need to project ourselves as such to the public because they don't get it. Christ, most of our parents don't understand what we do.

On Feb.19.2004 at 10:24 AM
Greg’s comment is:

Damn. Too many good arguments. I'm still waffling back and forth. My butt hurts from the splinters (see my above comment. WAY above.)

I'm beginning to think that certification could be fine if we could agree on standards, preferably not on education standards but on portfolio submission or something similar. Computer testing is stupid, I figure the concept was offered as a joke but I'll still disapprove.

Truthfully, it wouldn't matter to me in the slightest if we became certified or not, because I love this field. If there were a certification process, I'd do whatever it took and I imagine most others who were serious would too. I might complain a little, but I imagine most others would too. Most clients, I would think, would respond positively to certification because they don't get design, just its effects, and they'd be relieved to hand the torch of deciding whether or not something is good to a certification committee (or some such) that already knows a lot about design. Seems like the only people it would hurt are designers that aren't that good. So...Is there a need? Not really, design should stand on its own. Would it kill anyone? Doubtful, and it might raise awareness, which is good, right?

On Feb.19.2004 at 10:35 AM
patricia’s comment is:

Rob Bennett,

just for curiosity, where did you study Publication Design? Was this at UB?!

On Feb.19.2004 at 10:35 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

i want to agree with that. but i still think it is very difficult for a non-designer to know what they are supposed to be looking for. many well intentioned business people are getting duped, i'm sure.

But certification won't help that, either. Talk to 5 'certified' home remodelling contractors and ask them to spec how to build out your addition. You'll find 5 different answers, 2 most likely not up to code, 1 based on 'that's how it's always been done', 1 based on 'the latest/greatest' unproven technology, and the other 1 more gut-reaction opinion than any 'fact'. The only thing a *licensed* contractor will bring is a big insurance policy. ;o)

Let's also keep in mind that most people don't hire 'graphic designers'. They hire a team to solve much larger issues, graphic design being only a small subset of that. Bob's Fish Market needs a new web site to handle vendor orders. Who does he hire? Are certificates going to make a difference in the quality of his solution?

I've been a part of several large corporate software purchases. They all hinged on 'certified resellers' and 'microsoft accredited' etc. None of these projects resulted in a good solution. Accreditation is nothing but a bad marketing gimmik...it'll be used to dupe more clients than to prevent it.

On Feb.19.2004 at 10:37 AM
Peter Scherrer (ps)’s comment is:

>Are there too many of us?

>There are too many of us designers, but that's just the way it is.

I find the question that Peter has presented so interesting, as well as the answer above. What really intrigues me, however, is why this question is being asked in the first place.

i posted it because i realized that the "creative field" seems to be a desired market to be in. i also based it on my time blogging in Speak Up where it often seemed that the question was circled. but never directly asked. i think all the talk about "hacks", "having no business in here", etc. implies that people have strong opinions about it. i did expect the issue of certification would come up. never did i anticipate it would talke over, but obviously it seems to be an issue.

i expected the initial reaction to be that there are too many, but i'm also somewhat surprised -- well not really -- that we embrace variety of options, choices in our lives, but when it involves making our living we'd like to contain it to fewer options, probably so we can get a bigger piece of the pie.

anyway, coffee first.

On Feb.19.2004 at 10:39 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Several people in this conversation seem to have some basic misunderstandings of US law and the definition of terms:

Certification means you have a certificate. That’s it. There are certificates for graphic designers available and pretty much nobody cares about them. I’ll sell you graphic designer certification if you’d like. Group rates available. The obvious questions about certification are what does it certify, who cares, and why?

Activities vital to the public’s safety and well-being—structural engineering, the practice of law and medicine, hair braiding, etc.—are licensed by the states. People are restricted legally from certain activities unless they are licensed. There are many legal, political, and other reasons that make it unlikely that any US state will make setting Rotis without a license a crime.

In Canada the term “accreditation” means that the provincial government grants a charter to an organization restricting the use of the organization’s name or term. (That is not the meaning of the term in the US.) One cannot use the phrase “Registered Graphic Designer” or the initials RGD except as set out by the charter. The closest thing we see to that in the US is an organization protecting its trademark. You can be a real estate broker or a real estate agent but you’re only a Realtor´┐Ż if you’re a member of that organization. (The requirement in the charter that practicing graphic designers being grandfathered into the designation means that RGD will only be certification in any real sense after the retirement of the first generation of Registered Graphic Designers.)

The AIGA cannot enforce standards (such as their ethical guides) that restrict the way people do business. To do so would be an illegal monopolistic restraint on trade.

Again, Ellen Shapiro’s article (Looking Closer 2 or July 1993 Communication Arts) is a good place to start with the question of what you would want certified and who would care.


On Feb.19.2004 at 11:38 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Damn. The argument of the year, and I missed it.

Jason is correct, certification must first be applied to schools. It's where it makes the most sense. It's already happening, and to me, it signals the beginning of a new generation of trained designers who will take more pride in their education and the professional value of their chosen career. For students, accreditation would provide a more tangible career path, and give more value to their costly education.

Secondly, I think everyone is looking at certification on an individual basis only, and that's incorrect. It's not about elitism. It's not about inclusion or exclusion. It's not about insecurity.

I believe certification must be viewed as a holistic benefit for the profession. The commercial, business-oriented, profession of graphic design. It would benefit clients, practicing professionals, and the practice itself.

I think opponents of accreditation see graphic design as more of an art or craft -- practiced by those gifted with talent, who also possess the will and desire to make it into a career. That everyone has a right to sink or swim, and accreditation would kill that opportunity. It's a very populist, socialist view.

But I think it's elitist in its own way. Not everyone can be a Graham Wood or a Steven Soshea. You guys would make good designers even if you'd been trained to be plumbers. You have the talent, the fortitude, the luck -- and the advantage of hindsight after you've already made it. So of course, you'd say that all it takes to be a successful designer with happy clients is the will to do it.

But what about the thousands that don't? It's easy to say to hell with those hacks. They weren't deserving, or talented, or whatever. But what if some of those hacks really loved the profession, but lacked the talent, business skills, or knowledge of what they were supposed to do in the first place?

Well maybe, just maybe -- if there was an accreditation program in place, this profession of ours would be more attainable for more people. And in the process, it would be given more value in the eyes of other businesses and potential clients.

How is this a bad thing?

Gunnar -- thanks for the perspective and insight. Totally right on many points. I'm dying to find the article by Ellen Shapiro to review more thoroughly.

On Feb.19.2004 at 11:46 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

Tan, I think you hit the nail on the head. Accreditation would benefit designers who need a helping hand: the young, the inexperienced, and the mediocre. In this sense I think it's far more "populist" than the sink-or-swim approach. On the other hand, I'm not sure how it benefits clients to hire such "accredited" designers: under those circumstances it seems like accreditation would be something to be avoided. Basically, to carry any sort of clout an accreditation scheme would require the participation of the very designers who do not need it. It's a non-starter.

On Feb.19.2004 at 12:14 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Are there too many of us?

Sorry, wanted to answer Peter's original question.

No, yes, and maybe.

No, because the question of quantity is irrelevant. Like Debbie said, no one asks if there are too many musicians.

Yes, because I believe that curently, there are more designers than the market can support. There's simply not enough jobs at the moment to employ the thousands of students that will graduate in the coming months. Not to mention the thousands of unemployed designers.

As far as clients and work is concerned, it's a wash. There's work to be had, but margins are low, and I think the market is suffering from dilution at the moment. It's like the business of graphic design is losing its middle class. Uber-large firms and sole-practicioners are busier than ever -- but many small to medium firms are taking a beating because of this dilution. I'm sure there's an economic model out there to explain this more eloquently.

On Feb.19.2004 at 12:18 PM
Patrick’s comment is:

There are too many of us. There can be no doubt of that. And the major portion of this "too many" is made up of hacks — "designers" who know how to operate a computer and nothing else. I witness their "work" on a regular basis.

So what? Are you scared? Is that hack going to beat you to a great contract? Not likely. And if they do, they will only do it once. You cannot stay afloat in this business charging $25 for a logo and $500 for a web site. This market is self-correcting. The field will quickly be diminished and return to something approaching normalcy.

A large number of the students who graduated from my college programme (2 year GD diploma) are no longer graphic designers, if they ever were in the first place. But even if they were still in the field I wouldn't be worried. I'm better than them and I believe I will continue to be successful in the field.

Forget accreditation. This is a sure path to accomplishing nothing but confusing the public and making more hacks look legit. Besides, it would be a total mess. How many here would even qualify? Do you want to go back to school? Do you want someone else to judge whether you are good enough to be accredited?

On Feb.19.2004 at 12:49 PM
Matt’s comment is:

I have to admit that I'd be in favour of accreditation as long as it was based on a broad enough range of criteria so that everyone had a fair shot at it. Will this fix the problem of "hacks"? No. Of course not. No more than having certified contractors available will keep me from asking my dad to help me remodel the basement. But it does provide choice and it's up to the governing body (whatever that is) to use mebership fees to promote public awareness of the benefits of hiring an accredited designer.

So are there too many of us? I like the comment that "that's just the way it is". Simple and true. I think most people out there are feeling the pinch of too many applicants for a given job or a wait list for an apartment, or whatever - we are exceeding the carrying capacity of our own society, I suppose. And I suppose this "overpopulation" of our chosen profesion kind of hurts in the sense that it is nice to feel that you're special and different... On the other hand, there are a lot of us contributing to this discussion, and I'm glad of that.

On Feb.19.2004 at 01:21 PM
jim’s comment is:

just because I buy the new AutoCAD program doesn't make me an engineer and that new shed I built in the back yard doesn't make me an architect. I would have to pass a bar exam to become a lawyer. I like the idea of a certification for design professionals

On Feb.19.2004 at 02:46 PM
Thomas O’s comment is:

I have a 4-year design degree from a well-respected design school and 10 years experience, and,as much as I want my props, I think certification is silly.

Should musicians that are self-taught not be able to play in bands or get records contracts? What about painters? Should they have to have a 4-year BFAs?

I realize there are some practical/business issues with being a designer that differ from these examples but I assure you I did not learn them in design school.

Don't get me wrong. I am glad I went. It helped me focus for four years on nothing but design. Thus, I grew as a designer immensely.

But I think the cream always rises to the top. And that is true of all professions.

Hard work will pay off more than certification ever will.

On Feb.19.2004 at 02:53 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Am I the only one who has no idea what most people are advocating? Is it just sloppy use of language or is it sloppy thinking?

“Accreditation” (in US English) is the certifying of schools and school programs. Most art colleges and universities (including some really bad ones) are accredited.

“Certification” (again, in US English) is the granting of a certificate. What that certificate indicates depends, of course, on who is granting it and why. (The chances of licensing for graphic designers are so slim that mention of it suggests a need for psychoactive drugs.)

“Licensing” (yep, you guessed it: in US English) is a state law where people are not allowed to do something without a license. Licenses are sometimes granted by state agencies and sometimes by professional self-regulation boards.

So your plastic surgeon is an MD (a degree granted by, we hope, an accredited medical school) and is licensed (by the state where she practices) to practice medicine. Based on that license she can give proctology exams and practice psychiatry but, wisely, she sticks to what she knows best. To show what she knows best she is certified by the plastic surgery board and/or others but someone who is an MD with no training in plastic surgery can legally do that nose job you’ve been saving up for. She has surgery privileges at your local hospital; that is based on the hospital's policies but most states’ laws only require that major surgery be done someplace other than her office. The fact that your plastic surgeon is a member of the American Medical Association has no effect on any of this. These days, it puts her in the minority of physicians. Fifty years ago AMA membership was ubiquitous for MDs.

On Feb.19.2004 at 03:01 PM
Krystal Hosmer’s comment is:

I've been surprised (and selfishly pleased) to see a few other people with non-design educations.

I am one of these.. no design degree to speak of. I came here in a round about way .... and learned a lot of the technical design stuff the very hard way. Sometimes I think about going to school and getting a degree.. but after 7 years in the field and my own (one-person) business to run... what's the point now? If I wanted to teach maybe....

I do think there are a lot of hacks out there... and that their presence is diluting what is means to be a designer. Secretaries-turned-designer or kids workign for Xbox money drive me nuts! One of my contracts is working for a poster-child of Design Hack-ness...a CD who used to be the IT manager at a big agency. He learned Photoshop and is friends with's the casino owner's son.. so is now the CD. He has no native talent and seems to have no clue where his chair is even located.

It is up to those of us who value design to educate the public on what makes good design and to gently encourage the hacks to go find something else to do to fill their days.

Would I turn down someone without a degree? No... but they better have the drive and the talent to produce good work. 'Cause crap is crap.. even with a nicely framed parchment to back it up.

On Feb.19.2004 at 03:13 PM
Tan’s comment is:

You're correct Gunnar. My mistake. I used "certification" when I meant "accreditation".

But with all due respect, I should point out that the meaning of accreditation doesn't just apply to schools.

According to the nearest dictionary, to "accredit" means:

• To supply with credentials or authority.

• To attest to and approve as meeting a prescribed standard.

• To recognize (an institution of learning) as maintaining those standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice.

• To believe.

The last meaning is definitely interesting. So given these meaning, a profession can be accredited as well as a learning institution or program.

I believe that's what we're all talking about here. At least it is for me.

On Feb.19.2004 at 03:27 PM
Patrick’s comment is:

I think everyone here knows what we're talking about even if we aren't using the proper term.

Re Jim's comments...

The proffesionals you mention are in fields which can have a dramatic effect on peoples lives. If a building falls, it kills people. If a lawyer doesn't know the law he cannot, for example, effectively prosecute allowing a criminal to go free. As much as I like design and think that is has value, a designer is not in these situations and so does not need to be certified or accredited.

On Feb.19.2004 at 03:41 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

I think everyone here knows what we're talking about even if we aren't using the proper term.

Actually, I haven't seen an argument for accreditation/licensing/certification that really says why it'd be good. I just see a lot of 'lawyers/doctors/architects are licensed, why not us?'

I hear some mentions of 'standards'. OK. What standards? I see some mention of preventing clients from getting screwed. OK. How so?

On Feb.19.2004 at 04:03 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Just because. Ok?

On Feb.19.2004 at 04:16 PM
graham’s comment is:

darrel said it for me, but i'll reiterate a bit-i'm interested.

how would accreditation/licensing/certification be good/make things better?

what standards would govern this accreditation/licensing/certification?

one thing tan mentioned confused me a bit-

'certification must first be applied to schools.'

how is it not? are there not accredited (not sure how it works on the u.s. which is why i'm confused) ba/ma/phd etc. courses in graphic design in the u.s.?

On Feb.19.2004 at 04:32 PM
Steven’s comment is:


Wow! What an awesome compliment! I'm humbled (and blushing) at the recognition. That's as good as any certificate, in my book.

Brook and Steve-

I really agree with you with respect to "educating the business world" about the value of design. That's the most important aspect to all of this. Go to the source of the problem, rather than focus on the symptoms.

Maybe this need of certfication comes from that old attitude and saying that "the client is always right." So we feel that the problem lies within us, rather than the business community. But frankly, just as there are loads of "hack" designers, there are also loads of "hack" business people, who will forever be looking for the cheap and easy way. The only way they will ever change their ways is by having repeated disasters and failures, so that eventually they come around to the notion that quality matters. And probably a good many may never come around to seeing things this way.

On the otherhand, the majority of business folks do want to "do the right thing" to make their business grow, but they may not understand the real value of "good" design, mainly because of this mentality of appeal to the lowest-common-denominator and bigger is better. But if the strategic business value of design was being taught as a regular component in MBA programs and such, we might see larger numbers of the business community embrace "good" or "professional-level" design.

I'm just not that convinced that certification will stop "bad" design, or being underbid, or spec work, or any other dysfunctional or exploitive phenomenon. I think that this has more to do with th fact that our profession has been over-saturated in relation to lower economic activity and the effects of offshoring, etc.

On a personal note, my next-door neighbor is a classic "hack" designer. He went to Bryman or some other educational abomination, which taught him how to use an impressive amount of software, but very little in the way of real "design." And ya know what, he's struggling to get a job just as much as I am! So, truth be told, it's just a difficult time all around for a lot of us. And as Peter Scherrer mentions in the openning statement, some of the less passionate in our ranks are starting to leave the field, which, while it's sad in some ways, is really a very good thing in other ways. And an interesting thing about this phenomenon is that these used-to-be designers will more than likely go forward in their new professional endeavors with a heightened firsthand appreciation of the value of design. And this might, ironically, end up helping us in the longrun.

On Feb.19.2004 at 04:34 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> how is it not? are there not accredited (not sure how it works on the u.s. which is why i'm confused) ba/ma/phd etc. courses in graphic design in the u.s.?

There are many schools offering some form of "design" training that aren't accreditted. Non-accredited programs/degree may be a fine arts curriculum with some classes in computer graphics, or it may mix some fundamental art courses with one or two typography classes -- and call itself "graphic design" based. There are lots of private and public art colleges and universities still offering unaccreditted "design" degrees all over the US.

The ones who suffer are the unknowing students -- who graduate, only to discover that their chosen school and so-called design education is worthless in a competitive market. Accreditation is very necessary in educational applications.

As to the professional reasons -- I'm not avoiding the question from you and Darrel, but I feel like we've already hashed this whole topic out in a previous thread eons ago. The one about Canadian professional accreditation. I personally spent about a hundred hours typing out the reasons and arguments. My feelings haven't changed, but I'm not sure I want to get into it again.

On Feb.19.2004 at 04:51 PM
Matt’s comment is:

these used-to-be designers will more than likely go forward in their new professional endeavors with a heightened firsthand appreciation of the value of design. And this might, ironically, end up helping us in the longrun.

I like it. Sort of has a bringing the system down from within quality to it...

Seriously, though, it's a good point. Could it be that this is the natural progression of things? The market gets oversaturated and people start to fall out of it. This is then followed by a collective soul-searching stretched out over a time. A greater sense of organization and higher purpose emerges and we're all stronger for it.

It's a nice thought, actually.

On Feb.19.2004 at 04:51 PM
kris’s comment is:

first ever comment...so be gentle.

From what I've read of the comments so far, it seems to me that a lot of the dissatisfaction coming up is not so much that there are a lot of graphic designers out there - it's that there are bad graphic designers that are being hired by clients and producing faulty work and that it cheapens the industry.

So, will certification solve this problem? Not as far as I can see - it's not like you can stop the 15 year old ceo's cousin from producing whatever they want :).

I think the answer lies in educating the public as to what effective graphic design is. I find that people either like or dislike a design on an instinctive level, like music. If we (in terms of individuals, associations, whatever) can teach the public the reasons behind that reaction, and why bad design is a bad idea, the problem will take care of itself. Certfication is the easy way out.

On Feb.19.2004 at 04:52 PM
Patrick’s comment is:

Actually, I haven't seen an argument for accreditation/licensing/certification that really says why it'd be good. I just see a lot of 'lawyers/doctors/architects are licensed, why not us?'

I hear some mentions of 'standards'. OK. What standards? I see some mention of preventing clients from getting screwed. OK. How so?

I agree. I was assuming that most people meant that an accreditation/certification for graphic design would entail (in vague terms) an assessment of competency. What exactly anyone means is not, IMO, related to whether it would be a could idea, because, for me, even at a basic level it is a bad idea.

As for educating the business world/clients...

Is this really realistic? My experience as a designer (working at a studio, freelancing, doing sub-contracts, etc.) is that you cannot change the minds/opinions of clients. Their view of design will, on the whole, remain the same. What I finally realized was that if I couldn't change a client's mind (and that client didn't value good design) I had to get a new client.

I didn't get into design to fight some nebulous battle against the unaware and uninterested.

On Feb.19.2004 at 04:57 PM
Peter Scherrer (ps)’s comment is:

first ever comment...so be gentle.

kris, welcome to the club... (i hope you will change your contact in future posts from "spam" to an actual address, its part of participating in the community. no worries, we will not abuse it)

On Feb.19.2004 at 04:58 PM
Patrick’s comment is:

I think the answer lies in educating the public as to what effective graphic design is. I find that people either like or dislike a design on an instinctive level, like music. If we (in terms of individuals, associations, whatever) can teach the public the reasons behind that reaction, and why bad design is a bad idea, the problem will take care of itself.

The problem with this is that I can tell someone why I hate country music and why I think they should get into jazz. But will they stop listening to country and become jazz fans? No. So what do you do? As I said above you leave the country fans alone and go find people who are into jazz. End of headache.

On Feb.19.2004 at 05:01 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Very few in the business community will ever appreciate the "value" of design on aesthetic terms. But, if we're able to demonstrate and educate the value of design in terms of competitive advantage then most will perk up and pay attention. Like the saying goes, "Good design is good business."

On Feb.19.2004 at 05:16 PM
Jason’s comment is:

There are not too many of us. Maybe there just isn't enough work right now.

To certification, testing, and tribal practices, doesn't the design market already approve or disapprove of who gets to practice? I'll be getting an MFA in June, and will have a second degree on top of my BFA. I won't be licensed to practice design. But based on my experience and knowldege, I will stick to what I know best--design. The fact that I am a member of the AIGA has no effect on any of this, and won't strengthen my chances of getting work. I'll push and push, looking for design work that fits me perfectly. And what it all comes down to is comfort. Peter claims in the initial post:

But, in my opinion, there is a wealth of so-called art directors, graphic designers etc. that don't deserve the titles they give themselves.

If I can go to sleep at night, comfortable that I can call myself a designer, that's all I need for certification. It's an infinite spectrum of gray out there. I just want to fit in someplace.

P.S. I really am enjoying this thread.

On Feb.19.2004 at 05:18 PM
Peter Scherrer (ps)’s comment is:

But, in my opinion, there is a wealth of so-called art directors, graphic designers etc. that don't deserve the titles they give themselves.

I sure did say that. But I did not mean that cerfification would be the answer. The above statement was just my personal opinion about some wanna-be designers outthere. Maybe a better understanding on what it entails to be a reasonably decent designer will do the trick. what are common short-comings, how can a client know he selects the right designer for the job. It might be as simple as having a list of questions available for interested potential clients. Kind of as when you hire a contractor, or an architect. I hired the wrong contractor the first time around. Now i learned my lesson. I know what questions to ask. As some others have said, raising the awareness about "the power of design" might be a good route to take. And if so, maybe the AIGA has taken some good steps.

On Feb.19.2004 at 05:43 PM
kris’s comment is:

The problem with this is that I can tell someone why I hate country music and why I think they should get into jazz. But will they stop listening to country and become jazz fans? No.

Well...yes, but as Steven said above - if you tell them that jazz music will bring more people in if played at their store and country will drive them away (backed by relevant statistics, etc.) - you'll have a different reaction.

(p.s. Thanks Peter. That is my actual address, my public one at least. Ironic?).

On Feb.19.2004 at 06:48 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Note taken, Peter. Sorry to use your words out of context, but that snippet made me think, "I hope I deserve being called a designer. And I hope others see me as one too." Frankly, you've touched on all the right issues, and the complicated ones. This is a good topic for discussion. Nice work.

On Feb.19.2004 at 07:26 PM
Patrick’s comment is:

Well...yes, but as Steven said above - if you tell them that jazz music will bring more people in if played at their store and country will drive them away (backed by relevant statistics, etc.) - you'll have a different reaction.

I read what Steven said and agree with the point made. The point applies, IMO, to larger corporate projects, but these are not the size of projects I'm regularly involved with. If a small, local company wants a new identity and they want to use Party as the font and bright lime as the colour there is often little you can do.

On Feb.19.2004 at 07:57 PM
Steve’s comment is:

Patrick, one of your comments didn't quite make sense to me.

I didn't get into design to fight some nebulous battle

against the unaware and uninterested.

But wait, isn't that what all of this is about? Or,is this whole accreditation to-do really just about nothing but massaging our egos and making us feel like "real professionals".

I think it's safe to say that the ONLY way to advance the profession is by making aware the unaware and interesting the uninterested. If we can't begin to do that, we are headed down the same old road.

On Feb.19.2004 at 08:39 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Actually Patrick, this really applies to everybody--all clients, big or small. Maybe the client does want to use a bad font or garish color. But then isn't it our job to take the reasons for these ideas and then turn them around to promote something better.

Also, hey, if a client doesn't want to listen to you, then just do what they want as fast and efficiently as you can and pocket the money. It's their loss in the longrun. While it may sound a little Machiavelian, at least you have some money in the bank.

BTW, I tell some clients, in a friendly manner, right up front that I hope that they take advantage of how I think and create, and if they want to use me as basically just a production artist, they might save some money and go to some place like Kinkos. If I lose them as a client, no big deal. I've saved myself the headache. But frankly, no one has ever walked away from me yet, and it seems to work wonders with establishing limits and a level of respect.

On Feb.19.2004 at 10:39 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Design is an intellectual activity with a craft

aspect to it.

Thus there are two types of Design Activity when Solving Design Problems.

Conceptual and Execution. A small population of Designers can do both. Most can only do the latter. Meaning taking Direction or following someone else instruction. Everyone would like to believe they can do both. However, it is the Rare Creative with Vision that can Develop (Concept)(Analyze) (Strategyze) Design (Plan)(Execute)(Fabricate)

Most Design Schools train people to work for industry. Not to be individual thinkers. Meaning

excercising cerebral power. Less being able

to explain, justify, or defend their work.

Notwithstanding, I'm a proponent of educating

Designers through apprenticeship. Whether via an institution or self impowerment. Nothing compares to on the job training. Usaually, most Design Schools, Colleges, and Universities offer apprenticeship the senior year of school.

Apprenticeships should be given the first year.

Sixteen years of Design School or College will not prepare the newbie for LANDOR, PENTAGRAM, Lippincott & Margulies or Enterprise IG. Two days on the job at any of the aforementioned First Tier Consultancies is compared to four years of

Higher Design Education.

I straddle the fence on both sides of the argument of Licensing.

I've witnessed well educated Designers. That couldn't scribble or draw a crooked line. More or less use their craftiness to elicit ideas from subordinates through casual conversation.

Someone with little training whom is just brilliant. The aforementioned cases are far and few in-between. Yet the variables exist.

Licensing Visual Communicators in America will emphatically not happen for years. If it were going to happen it would have happened in the 1980s. When the influx of people getting Design Jobs were people that understood how to use software. Capable of operating the First Generation of Machintosh Computers. Definetely my traditional training and career as a Designer and Illustrator was stifled by this revolution.

Alas, the Button Pushers could do no more than operate the software. They new ZILCH about the Principles and Elements of Design.

Neither could they conceptualize or execute. Notwithstanding, elaborate on the virtues of their


Finally, the Button Pushers succumbed to Legitimate Visual Communicators. After a seven year run of Baffling with Bullshit and very little Dazzling with Brilliance.

First and Foremost Personal Computer(s) were not marketed for Designer(s). At the time, personal computers were using DOS (Disk Operating System) which were essentially command based. Not point and click. As it is today.

Although Apple Macintosh marketed it's product for creative professionals. It did not consult with the Design Industry.In reference to needs and wants, goals and aspirations of Designers. They simply said "Here it is use it".

As one of the Elder(s) that regularly contribute to Speak Up. I agree with Gunnar Swanson, in ideology.

Having read both the Print and Communication Arts Articles on Licensing or Certification. However can't find them in my archives. It is recommended reading for all. I remember one of the articles giving a Licensing and Certification sample test.

Very difficult test to pass. I doubt if most people that contribute to S.U. could pass the test.

I may be wrong. When I read the articles. And took the test. It was in my Post Timothy Leary Days.

If Designer(s) are going to be licensed. Then it should be the Design Profession as a whole. To include Industrial Designers. (Product, Transportation, 3 Dimensional), Fashion Designers, etc. etc. Not just Visual Communicators. United We Stand Divided We Fall.

For Debate, Interior Designers and Interior Decorators are licensed. If I'm remembering correctly. Please correct me if I'm wrong!!!!!!!

Why Not Visual Communicators???

Certainly, Visual Communication is more of a Utilitarian Discipline and Practice than Interior Design and/or Interior Decorating.

Is this not a weeding out process for everyone with a whim for decorating not to be able to take commissions and purchase Furniture from Herman Miller or Knoll.

As I remember twenty years ago. I was asked to redesign the interior of an Executive Office.

Went to Knoll and Herman Miller was told I need a Interior Designers License to purchase their product.

I'd like to think that my Life Experience and Design Experience has enriched my knowledge and understanding of Human Factor(s) related to

a Holistic approach to Gestalt encompassing the

spectrum of problem solving activity.

Many are called Few are chosen.

Personal Favorite:

E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One

On Feb.20.2004 at 02:16 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

The original basis for this discussion suffers from a conclusion reached without proper data. If one searches the U.S. Department of Labor website ( art directors, here / graphic designers, here ), you find that there are way more lawyers, nurses and security guards than designers out there -- and keep in mind there are 292,000,000 Americans. Yes, there are a greater number of designers in the major metropolitan centers; but this is just a result of context -- that's where the clients be.

Thus :

...there are a lot of actors at the Coffee Bean on Sunset Blvd.

...there are a lot of artists in Chelsea

...there are a lot of hipsters in Williamsburg

...there were a lot of prospectors in California during the 1850's

Living in Los Angeles is contextual. Looking around the coffee shop is anecdotal. Hearing someone introduce themselves as a graphic designer at a Los Angeles coffee shop is a statistical probability.

Now, concerning the discourse on credentials, certifications, licenses and other unobtaniums...

I am somewhat amused by the argument that certification helps the client since my clients seem to do a pretty good job protecting their interests. They come armed with confidentiality agreements, contracts and legal departments.

If the project is large and important enough, a smart client will go through due diligence with thorough research -- checking portfolios, awards, degrees, word of mouth -- and the proper paperwork will be in place beforehand. Everything else is either a cakewalk or small potatoes.

Friends, take solace in Theodore Sturgeon's Law: "95% of everything is crud". That wonderful crud puts the good, the competent, the valuable into high relief.

Go in peace.

On Feb.20.2004 at 04:32 AM
Patrick’s comment is:

I think it's safe to say that the ONLY way to advance the profession is by making aware the unaware and interesting the uninterested. If we can't begin to do that, we are headed down the same old road.

This is the same brand of idealism that has baffled me since getting into the field. It would be wonderful if you could do this, but you can't. That's why I mentioned the jazz/country thing. You can't change people. You can try to influence them, but that is it. Sometimes it does work, but there is no method for changing every person out there who at some time may need design services. Accreditation is certainly not going to accomplish that.

There is no old road. There are many roads and there always have been. I don't know when design became "broken" and in need of repair. Design is a service industry and it is as broken or healthy as the people it serves and the people who practice it. The idea that there is some sort of design utopia just around the corner if only we (as a collective) can get there is naive.

On Feb.20.2004 at 08:20 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

As for educating the business world/clients...

Is this really realistic?

Well, the issue goes back farther than that. Our education system (k-12) offers very, very little in the way of design education. Design (not just graphic) is a practical skill that most people could improve upon, but it's never even mentioned as a skillset in our schools.

Granted, we're lacking in arts, music, and civics classes as well...perhaps we just have a rather narrow education growing up in America. I recall highschool funneling people into 4 'career' paths: farming, business, college, or the trades. That was the gigantic scope of options offered to me at the time. Granted, I came from small town hickville, and times have changed since then, but I believe we're missing some core curriculum (curriuli?) in our schools.

On Feb.20.2004 at 09:28 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> one thing tan mentioned confused me a bit- 'certification must first be applied to schools.' how is it not? are there not accredited (not sure how it works on the u.s. which is why i'm confused) ba/ma/phd etc. courses in graphic design in the u.s.?

Graham, I think nobody's answered your question. Yes, all schools are accredited in that they give you a legitimate degree recognized by the government, church or Hooters. The discussion of accreditation in academics (as I understand it) revolves around the fact that each program in different schools is completely different. There is no consistency between each of them that would allow a consistent crop of educated graduates. Which in my opinion is not such a bad thing as it gives you equally great options like Yale or Cranbrook. But this freely-willy approach also lends itself to poorly designed curricula that don't prepare students well enough for — your favorite term — the real world.

Steve Heller's latest book, Teaching Graphic Design, is a compilation of syllabi across the country and it shows the disparate range of educational approaches. While it makes a good case for the diversity in academia it also shows the propensity for certain programs to run amock as they please.

Accreditation for schools could set a common denominator of classes that must be taught to graphic designers and ideally would leave room for each program to do it their own way. But this is also very unrealistic to think it will happen.

On Feb.20.2004 at 09:34 AM
Teal’s comment is:

I have two thoughts adressing the two recurrent themes.


Certification does not guarantee quality. Being grounded, as I am, in the tech industry, I can show you certifications that are flooded with inexperienced 'crash course' graduates (ex. MCSE), and other fields where there are multiple competing certifications, none of which align too well with each other (ex. Linux).

It is true, that might not happen with design. But consider, a certification is typically a multiple choice test. Answers are prescribed, and talent not really an issue. The best certifications are either straightforward knowledge tests (which don't show how well you can apply it), or the very rare hands-on test. Hands-on tests cannot be distributed and marketed very easily. And testing is a product. Eventually, design certification will move towards being a commodity. Even if it starts out with pure motive.

I have an A+ certification. I took the tests after a couple of years of learning hardware through informal apprenticeship, reading, and self-directed 'eror-making'. I have been in class with people who were trying to change carreers into that current hot thing (IT). Most of them knew nothing about the inside of a computer. They were picking up the A+ as a part of their MCSE track. And if they got it, it would be mostly memorisation. Not an impossibility to do. But what does it say about their ability to fix a computer, or even build one (which is generally easier, as you control the variables, somewhat more)?

Certification does not necessarily operate as a barrier of skill. If the certification becomes popular, it can easily be just another way to spend money.


This may be a radical idea, but when it comes to educating the 'unwashed' or 'design obtuse' masses ... isn't that sort of a reflection of how the culture values different kinds of human activity/expression. Our culture highly values sports. So more people are aware of the aesthetics of sports. Our culture doesn't value art very much.

Now, this is not to say that designers can't influence culture directly and indirectly. Simply designing well, places some aesthetic value in front of the consumers of your work. (Though the poor designers have the same luxury.) And speaking to clients (and friends and ... ) allows you to affect individual sympathies.

But who here wants to fight for a Department of Design in the government? Or, on the other end of the scale, who wants to teach young kids the joys and fun (and agony and passion ... you know) of design (and art in general)? Because design of a better quality will be expected when the culture is interested in design.

A last comment.

I have a minute amount of skill playing conga (afro-brazillian drums). And I was selected to play for some event with another person. He was from Nigeria. When we played, he 'toasted' me. I couldn't keep up with his tempo. He was a Lawyer. But since he grew up in Nigeria, and everyone played drum, it was 'natural' for him.

On Feb.20.2004 at 10:53 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Well said Teal.

Armin. Please allow me to borrow from you underconsideration page to make a point. You say it more eloquently than me.

Graphic design — the profession that visually defines the world we live in.

Granted, we don’t see Graphic Design as Quantum Physics-serious; it’s a fun, creative profession that lets us play with color, size, shape, paper, texture, but more importantly with actions, reactions and emotions. We do stuff that affects the world in unexpected, immeasurable and intangible ways.

To Patrick

The idea that there is some sort of design utopia just around the corner if only we (as a collective) can get there is naive.

Is it not NAIVETE to think because you are a Graphic Designer and Design Print, Web, Multi-Media, etc.

You should be licensed. Fact of the matter. The Masses do not Respect or Glorify what we do.

The Hiarchy in Design Activity begins with:

1. Architecture

2. Engineering

3. Industrial Design

4. Fashion Design

5. Graphic Design

Graphic Design as a whole is the lowest professional Design Discipline on the Food Chain. In some people's minds eye. No different than basket weaving, quilt making or making pot holders.

Yes, as professionals we all no this is not TRUE.

It is the public perception of our profession that has to change.

In an earlier post. I posted a topic for Debate.

Not a single person answered.

I'll post again.

Why are Interior Designers and/or Interior Decorators licensed. And not Graphic Designers.

When you answer this question. Therein lies your answer.

I don't consider myself a Graphic Designer. Haven't for EONS.

My Design knowlege and capability encompasses various Disciplines of Design Activity. Not just

Visual Communication.

If I am going to be licensed. I don't want to be limited to practicing Visual Communiction.

How Naivete to limit oneself and be pigeonholed!!!!

Purportedly, Architects, Industrial Designers,

and Fashion Designer get more main stream press

than Graphic Designers.

Furthermore, when is the last time you visited someone that was a none Designer and looked at their book shelves.

Almost everyone I know have among other literary

jewels books on Architecture, Fashion, Film,

Industrial Design or Photography.

I've never seen a coffee table book at a none Designers house on Visual Communication.

Yet photographer(s) Industrial Designer(s), Fashion Designer(s) are not discussing licensing.


On Feb.20.2004 at 12:38 PM
surts’s comment is:


What's the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator?

On Feb.20.2004 at 01:13 PM
surts’s comment is:


A degree or two...

I can't remember where or when I saw that idea used, but it stuck with me.

On Feb.20.2004 at 01:14 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Good point Michael:

However, doesn't negate the fact. Visual Communication is more Utilitarian than Interior Design. Yet Interior Designers are licensed.

Visual Communicators are not.

Both Interior Designers and Visual Communicators

play with color, size, shape, paper, texture, but more importantly with actions, reactions and emotions.

As Armin eloquently stated.

Makes you go Ummmmm!!!!!!!!

On Feb.20.2004 at 02:19 PM
justin m’s comment is:

The Hiarchy in Design Activity begins with:

1. Architecture

2. Engineering

3. Industrial Design

4. Fashion Design

5. Graphic Design

I want to cry.

I am currently studying graphic design at a traditional 4yr school. I often feel like screaming when I sit in class, watching and listening to my classmates. I take notice of the work they do and the effort they put in and then go home and feel like a fraud, wondering if I missed something somewhere.

When did "The Design Cookbook" and similar things become required reading for design students? Everybody seems to have them in my classes and the only time I have looked at one was Tuesday. I picked it up off a fellow student's desk and thumbed through it, disturbed that they would have it. Am I wasting my time saving my money to buy books by Muller-Brockman, Tufte, and such? Am I fooling myself in hoping that one day my skills, knowledge and abilities will be more valued than someone who buys how-to design books from Borders, worships MTV as their god, and only does something because it trendy?

If so, tell me now and I'll gladly quit school and find something else to study. I have numerous other skills and think there are or will be too many designers soon. I'm pretty sure most of students in my classes are only there because as someone else mentioned, they see it as a starting point to something else. I'm studying design because I enjoy the art of communication, something I believe has been lost with the introduction of software such as PowerPoint and Publisher.

On Feb.20.2004 at 02:23 PM
steve’s comment is:

Maybe part of the reason we don't see many books ABOUT graphic design on out friend's coffee tables is because all of those architecture, photography, and fashion books ARE graphic design.

Personally, I'd rather see a beautifully designed Lorraine Wild book than a monograph ABOUT Lorraine Wild.

By the way, did someone actually choose to mention the so-called-design-food-chain as evidence for accreditation? That's proof that we're really just talking about satisfying our egos and feeling a little better about our little corner of the design world.

On Feb.20.2004 at 02:57 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

However, doesn't negate the fact. Visual Communication is more Utilitarian than Interior Design. Yet Interior Designers are licensed.

Design Maven -- I can't tell from your writing style, but you may be missing one important point about Interior Designers: their work interacts with local building codes. Thus, the licensing requirements. It's a public safety issue.

Also, the discussion of which is more utilitarian is really a non-issue. Yes, they 'place' the sofa, but remember that a good interior person considers the use, safety and lifespan of materials.

On Feb.20.2004 at 03:23 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Justin M, if you enjoy the art of communication, you've got what it takes to make it in the longrun. Forget about those that only indulge in style without seeing or understanding content. They'll fade away just like last year's pop tune.

Getting back to the original "Are there too many of us?" subject, here's a notion that hasn't been really taken up. What if from the ranks of these design barbarians comes something new and wonderful. Do we really want to build barriers to to that opportunity?

"Hacks" or "masters," we're all a part of the messy and mysterious equation of engaging in a creative endeavor.

On Feb.20.2004 at 03:30 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I may be stupider than the average person in this conversation but I still have no idea what various people are actually proposing. I suspect that we could easily come up with a list of things that are illegal in most jurisdictions because they constitute practicing law or medicine without a license. If graphic designers were licensed what would be illegal for someone to do without a license?

What is unique to graphic design practice? Would these proscriptions apply only to independent designers and design firms? Could a non-licensed graphic designer be an employee of the “client” firm or would a prohibition of practicing design without a license stop that, too?

On Feb.20.2004 at 04:35 PM
Daniel’s comment is:

Certification, if endeavored upon by designers, would quickly take on two distinct qualities: elitism, and a modern, very benign (but annoying) form of Fascism.

Entitlement is one of the biggest problems facing the design profession today, and it only gets worse with each graduating class of design students who, because they've been told as such, consider themselves the shit. Certification would only add to this virus of heightened self-worth.

A couple of definitions, just to drive the point home:


The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.


A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

On Feb.20.2004 at 04:55 PM
surts’s comment is:

I'm for accreditation, for a while I was against it but through experience of this last year my mind has shifted. Ask your hair stylist/designer how they got to cutting hair full time. In Alberta there's more of a process for a hair license than for someone that is responsible for a company's communication. I take that trust that my client has for me seriously, but maybe that's just my point of view. Next time your getting a massage, ask them if their registered, reputable therapists are. Marian brought up many positive accreditation points, scroll up and read them again. I'm not fearful of those that are better than me, they've helped me get better. I'm not trying to stop anyone from designing (hacks are people too), accreditation enables a structure where you can improve your skills if that's your desire. There are tons of GDC people (Canada) that are interested in improvement out of passion, not fear.

On Feb.20.2004 at 05:23 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

Am I fooling myself in hoping that one day my skills, knowledge and abilities will be more valued than someone who buys how-to design books from Borders, worships MTV as their god, and only does something because it trendy?

Justin- Yes. That's just my opinion, but in my experience, the more I learn, the more useless I become. Not necessarily a bad thing, if you aren't into being used.

I also was very disturbed by designers who buy "survival guides" (and ONLY survival guides)--are we so insecure? I'm not concerned with mere survival. Thrive or die. And I mean thrive in the way that you want to as a person. There is so much money in the crappy end of design work; nobody will value your wisdom, but I guarantee it will be valuable in another sense.

On Feb.20.2004 at 09:05 PM
Ellen Shapiro’s comment is:

Gunnar Swanson just alerted me to this discussion. I'm kind of amazed because I really thought certification in the U.S. was a dead issue.

I have one "correction" to make to something Gunnar wrote. Maybe I didn't express myself well in my conversation with him in Vancouver, but I didn't decide long ago that certification isn't worthy of time or consideration. I decided that it just isn't gonna happen -- in large part because the big names in the profession were/are so contemptuous of the idea. And in large part because it's too late. I just got 50 resumes from a craigslist posting and 40 of the people graduated "in graphic design" from Katherine Gibbs School.

Besides the "Design Issues" article, "Certification: a Hypothetical Proposal," that was published in July 93 and reprinted in "Looking Closer 2," two other pieces on the subject were published in CA: "Accreditation in Ontario" (Nov 01) and "International Accreditation Debate" (Jan 02). After that I felt I'd truly gotten to the end of the line on the subject. ("Accreditation" is the term used in Canada and Europe for granting a "title" or qualification for professional practice to an individual who passes an exam, portfolio review, or other standards set by the accrediting body. It doesn't mean that people who don't have it can't practice -- lots of them do -- but that educated clients should choose people with the qualification). Whether that is happening or will ever happen remains to be seen.

Some of the discussion is about the AIGA. If you are interested in the AIGA's official position, please look at AIGA director Ric Grefe's comments in the International article. Then look at "Knowledge Expectation for a Professional Designer" on page 7 of the AIGA binder published in Dec 01, "Design Business and Ethnics: Designers should have knowledge and understanding of communication theory, writing, psychology, sociology, anthropoligy, and business, as well as the humanities." Is that supplosed to be some kind of joke? I was just interested that they know the difference between Times Roman and Garamond.

Speaking of jokes, I am taking a class at The New School called Standup Comedy Workshop. I was amazed to learn in the first class that graphic designers are not the only ones who have "suffered" because of the computer. The class is full of musicians, filmmakers, and photographers who say that their profession is in the toilet because anyone with a Mac and a $59.95 software program can do it. Besides, they all want to be Jerry Seinfeld and get $10,000,000 an episode.

Anyway, after reading all your comments, maybe I am wrong and it will happen in the U.S. someday.

On Feb.20.2004 at 10:25 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Mr. Kingsley:

You spoiled my FUN. I was actually hoping some of the younger Design Populace would answer.

As I stated or didn't state. When you compare the two with thorough understanding of the differences. Therein lies your answer.

I am well aware of the differences between Interior Designers and Visual Communicators.

As I posted the link below which explains the differences in Certified Interior Designers and

Registered Interior Designers. Graphic Designers

are not confronted with these problems. On the

surface Interior Design and Graphic Design are similar in working methodology.

As different as an Elephant and Mammoth.

Which is the reason I juxtaposed Graphic Design and Interior Design.

Surely this would have been an essay question to obtain a license and/or certification in Visual Communication.

Justin M.

Keep Grinding. It'll all payoff. There are Designer(s) and Design Consultancies that are doing much better that Architectual Consultancies.

The Design Food Chain was posted not to elevate any Design Practice. It was Posted to

show how undervalued Visual Communication is as

a profession.

The Elders that write on S.U. emphatically understand. Graphic Design is viewed as a none essential service. Only by those that can't afford it's service.

If given an impromptu pole or focus group test.

The order in which I placed each discipline would be accurate in the minds eye of the general public. With a margin of error of 10%.

The pole has nothing to do with income. There

are as many unemployed Architects, Engineers, Industrial Designers, Fashion Designers as

there are Graphic Designers.

Many Architectural, Industrial Design Consultancies are getting involved with Corporate Identity and Branding. Industrial Design is where both disciplines were born. Industrial Designers concentrate more on Product Design.

Many Interior Design Consultancies are getting invloved with General Graphics or Exhibit and Trade Fair Design. The boundaries are blurred.

Thus you get the niece or grand-daughter that designs the invitations for the corporate party. You get the girlfriend of a friend that designs the corporate website. You get the son of the vice president whom is in charge of Brand Management. But his degree is in Gerontology.

People tell you. I can get that cheaper at Kinkos.

Examples are a bit extreme. Not far from the truth. You catch my drift.

Everyone that owns a camera suddenly thinks they are Ansel Adams,Duane Michaels,Jay Maisel, and Henri Cartier Bresson.

Everyone that owns a computer suddenly think they are Designers because the Designers Arsenal are at their disposal. However, they don't understand the canons of the profession.

When you seek medical attention. How often do you hear patients telling a physician. "I can get that cheaper somewhere else." The same with lawyers. You never hear it.

I constantly tell my clients. When you go into your doctors office. You tell your doctor what your problem is. He/she examines you. Write you a prescription. You don't dictate to your doctor or lawyer what they should or shouldn't do.

The are professionals. You trust their judgement. They have the expertise.You have the right to second opinion.

Give me the same courtesy you give your doctor or lawyer. I am a professional. I have the expertise. Otherwise you wouldn't give me your business.

Why is it clients presume they can tell Designers how to Design.

Visual Communicators are undervalued!!!!!!

As it stands today. Hypothetically, Corporate Identity and Environmental Design will be the Discipline under Visual Communication that will be licensed first and foremost.

All Corporate Identity Consultancies employ Architects, and Interior Designers.

Environmental Designer(s) work closely with Architects. Many are Architects.

Certification Explanation for Interior Designers. Explains their job function.


On Feb.20.2004 at 11:08 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:


Thanks for alerting Ms. Shapiro.

Ms. Shapiro, Many thanks for your contribution.

As I earlier stated and affectionately joked.

My Post Timothy Leary Days.

The test that was presented for Graphic Design licensing or certification in the Print and/or Communication Arts Article. Most Designers could not pass that test.

Thanks for acknowledging most of the BIG names in the Design Business did not want certification.

I know who they are. Most learned their craft via apprenticeship or come from a lineage of Printers or Designers. Many didn't have Degree's.

On Feb.20.2004 at 11:31 PM
Patrick’s comment is:

Give me the same courtesy you give your doctor or lawyer. I am a professional. I have the expertise. Otherwise you wouldn't give me your business.

Why is it clients presume they can tell Designers how to Design.

This is something I used to wonder about. I still do at times. But the answer is simple: Law is complex, medicine is complex. Both are far beyond the understanding of someone who has not been trained in those areas.

With graphic design it is easy to look at something and decide whether you like it or not (regardless of whether you know how or why it was made). This difference is easy to see with the web. Most clients haven't a clue what is behind their browser window. When you talk in these terms (CSS, SSI, JS, CGI, etc.) they listen. But when it comes to how the page looks they talk, they like to design.

On Feb.21.2004 at 08:50 AM
Armin’s comment is:

An interesting tidbit of information from the latest HOW Magazine. In their last web poll (which I'm unsure how many people respond) they asked who had a degree in graphic design (or similar), scarily:

51% - said yes, they had a degree

49% - said no, they didn't have a degree

Can anybody cite another profession with so many undegreed practicing professionals or one where half of them don't have the proper education and training…

Nobody? Right. That's what I thought.

On Feb.21.2004 at 09:00 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:


Music, Art, Drama, Literature, and Publishing, off the top of my head.

some examples:

Joni Mitchell supposeably doesn't know how to read music.

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard.

There is a whole school of painters called "outsiders" who are simply that: unschooled, unaffiliated.

and so on and so on...

On Feb.21.2004 at 09:32 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Music, Art, Drama, Literature, and Publishing, off the top of my head.

I should have added service-based to profession in my earlier comment.

On Feb.21.2004 at 10:30 AM
Teal’s comment is:

School is not learning.

Learning can happen anywhere, if you choose to look for it.

School (or better apprenticeships) are guidance. They are shared culture. (Place the logo so ... and so, but not this way.)

Because books are also shared culture, they can somewhat function as a teacher.

Talent, drive, etc are not a function of school. They are a function of an individual and their circumstances. (Oh ... Slack, the ability to enjoy life is good too. Not everyone should be a 'Type A' personality.)

Design is a service ... in this capacity, skills such as knowing publishing practices, color theory, audience values, etc. apply. Part of this knowledge can be generalised, and taught in school. Part of it is learned 'on the job'.

Design is a discipline ... in this capacity, there is a culture (or cultures) of aesthetics and practices.

Design is art (expression) ... in this capacity, it is creativity from one or more people.

A person may be good in one area, but not another. One person may be well trained at working with a client, fulfilling job technicalities, and getting the work done. But they may have little sense of the Culture of design. And maybe little uniqueness of expression.

Another person may be wild and untrained in the way other designers like to do things, but have an artistic flair to their work.

Each of those two people will produce different work. The first will do work that is stable, and likely directed by others. The second will stand out, but perhaps clash with general 'business values'.

So what is Certification likely to test?

Probably basic issues from set one (Service),

and perhaps some examples from set two (Discipline). It is highly unlikely (and probably not desirous) to test set three (Art).

So, then what will certification address? Will it cause better design to happen? Probably not. You could argue that it would lower the pay of those not conversant with some of sets one and two, which might be true. On the other hand, often people who are not schooled already make lesss money. That is part of their attraction.

You will note that this indicates the buyer of design then, is more interested in cheap design than good design. Would certifications/accreditations change that behaviour? Maybe in some cases. If a manager hires a certified designer, they can put that on their resume. But there is already some of that. Well known design firms already are resume feathers.

Now, were you to introduce licensing, which made it illegal to practice design without approval, that would change things. Get rid of all those instant internet designers, and those high school branding experts.

... Somehow, I don't think we live in a country where cheap design is likely to be outlawed.

Finally. I am not saying certifications might not toss a wrinkle into the way things are now. I just doubt they will promote better design.

On Feb.21.2004 at 12:44 PM
Eric Benson’s comment is:

Are there too many creatives?

I don't believe so, but I do believe there are a bunch of people trying to be and giving the craft a bad name. I have met numerous "designers" who had no formal training that were very competent and intelligent professionals. However, I have also met some "designers" with BFAs that were in my mind, hacks. People who embarrassed the craft by applying style over substance and underbidding others for projects with no shame.

But to more address your question, I would rather have a world full of creatives working together to solve some of the world's dilemmas than not. I still believe there isn't enough aesthetic beauty in our fast-paced world. Not enough moments to relax and enjoy a piece of art or the natural world around us. I hope for more creatives in the future, but we need to do a better job preparing them in schools to critically address their profession and its power.

On Feb.24.2004 at 09:08 PM
Frank J Quinones’s comment is:

and not all of us are going to end up in a utopia like office setting where we can do whatever we want to. Few people ever can.

This is a subject my peers and I tend to bring up on a regular basis.

I think that if one is truly talented and has design sense, it shows (so if certification happens, you're in). And if you're one of those talented individuals, make sure to get positions that are going to let you show off what you've got. If you let yourself get into positions where you're designing cross word puzzles or cleaning up some hacks work then it's nobody's fault but your own.

I wasn't one of those lucky kids to have parents who were well off. I put myself through school, got my 2 year design degree (it's what I could afford) and hit the "real world". I've worked hard to take on positions that would let me prove I'm the real deal. It hasn't been easy but then again nothing worth while ever is.

On Feb.26.2004 at 08:12 PM
Frank J Quinones’s comment is:

What Eric Benson said.

On Feb.26.2004 at 08:21 PM
Hasleena’s comment is:

I'm a graphic designer my self, and i am proud to be one.

"Everywhere you look today -- from buildings and landscapes, to commercial products and public services, to Web sites and print products -- design has taken on new meaning. Design isn't just about decoration; it's a critical component of how we communicate, collaborate, and compete. But behind the "look and feel" of any good design are a host of carefully conceived principles: fundamental propositions that define the essence of the design. The trick for all businesspeople today is to learn those underlying rules -- to think like designers."

Quotes from Anna Muoio and Lucy A. McCauley,DESIGN RULES

On Oct.21.2005 at 10:51 PM