Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fake Designers, Redux

So... apparently my rant about pseudo-designers went over quite nicely, and people wanted to share it. The problem with my rants is that they tend to run long and contain lots of naughty words. I've edited it down to just under 1000 words and removed all but one of the "bad" words. That one is there on purpose and it's staying.

The original post is here, in all its verbosity and profanity, though I did edit it some when I saw that people were starting to link it. It's like the MPAA - you drop more than one F-bomb, and you lose your PG-13 rating.

Anyway, if you feel compelled to share or repost, all I ask is that you link back to me. (And it would be cool to see where you posted it, too.) I know it's "just" a blog post, but I'm trying to be a writer over here, y'know?

Not Everyone is a Graphic Designer. Not Even Me. And I Went to School for it. 

Let me talk at you (yes, at you, not to you) a bit about the biggest pet peeve of (real) graphic designers. No, it’s not the unfortunate prevalence (or mere existence) of Comic Sans.

It’s people with zero training who run around calling themselves designers.

For every hack designer out there who churns out cringe-worthy “work,” it devalues the entire design industry. It’s already a struggle. Quality designers have a hard time getting the monetary compensation they deserve because someone’s neighbor’s cousin’s sister’s daughter has a copy of Photoshop and will do it for twenty bucks.

You get what you pay for, people.

I had dinner recently with two of my friends-slash-fellow-design school alums, and it was kind of surreal listening to them talk about the trade. I have never worked professionally as a designer – once I graduated, I ended up pursuing other things. My design degree was a foot in the door, nothing more. Yet I still work in the industry, around the industry, and I work with designers every single day. One of my good friends from college (and beyond) recently attended the HOW design conference in Boston, and I think it was an especially interesting experience to her to mingle with the variety of professionals and so-called professionals in the industry.

One of her biggest peeves was the people who went around saying that their job was to "make things pretty.”
Cue: rant.

Anyone who’s been formally trained knows that design isn’t about making things pretty. Anyone who hasn’t been formally trained but who works as a designer should know that.

I’m not so far removed myself that I’ve forgotten everything I’ve learned. Design isn’t about making things “pretty.” Design is about communication. Design is about function. “Pretty” isn’t the point. “Pretty” is missing the point. Design is effective communication, the end. Sure, aesthetics are important… so long as they tell the message they were sent to tell.

Design is nuanced, it always means something, it WILL tell people something. You need to be in control of it (the design) enough to make sure it’s conveying the right message, the intended message, on both the conscious and subconscious levels. It’s kind of like a belligerent child, in that sense. You don’t want it swearing in front of the grandparents when you meant for it to politely ask for a cookie.

Design isn’t necessarily pretty. It needs to convey a message, or it’s shit.

Does that offend you? Good. That means you need to take a step back and re-evaluate. It also means you didn’t have much if any formal training, and that’s what makes the majority of graphic designers cranky at you.  Design school? Not a cake walk. My degree is literally borne of blood, sweat, and tears. (Have you ever used an Xacto knife at 3am? Keep some bandages handy). So many tears. I can’t tell you how many near-meltdowns (and actual meltdowns) I had. I almost quit and changed majors the summer before my senior year because my internship made me so miserable.

We spent years being told by our professors that we were inferior, our work was only slightly better than garbage – only to have all the professors be all “LOL J/K” at the end of our senior year, when they reviewed our final portfolios and reminded us that our alma mater sent out some of the best-trained, most desirable designers in the field. We just stared at them blankly.

“You mean to tell us that we don’t, in fact, suck?”

It’s hard work. I realize that a lot of designers are self-taught, and many of them are very good. I realize that a lot of designers that have formal training are terrible. I probably fall somewhere in between the two, and that’s probably because I’ve spent the last five years working on the account side of things rather than the creative side of things. But I paid my dues and I know what I’m talking about. I mean, they don’t just let anyone in. I got my degree from an accredited program that has a pretty cut-throat admission process – at the end of our freshman year, we have to apply to get into the actual professional program. They only take 60 people. Which really isn’t that many, if you knew how many people applied… somewhere between 150-300 people, depending on the year.

My point is, you can’t just run around calling yourself a graphic designer because someone bought you a copy of Adobe Creative Suite Eleventy-Two. Until you’ve been forced to slog through “Making and Breaking the Grid” and other such riveting tomes, until you can tell me what the difference between coated and uncoated paper is, until you can tell me what kerning and tracking and leading mean, until you can define “x-height” and ramble on about ascenders and descenders and loops and bowls, until you can laugh hysterically at people that try to print with RGB files, until you’ve been and critiqued and spent countless hours obsessing over your portfolio and critiqued some more and have shed tears even though you’ve been told repeatedly it’s not personal (it feels personal – but it’s really, really not), then don’t claim to be some hip, awesome designer. You’re embarrassing everyone else in the field and you’re the reason that nobody is making the money that they should be.

Designers and copywriters are the force that makes the world go ‘round. They are behind the scenes of every single thing in this country. They are the reason brands fail or succeed. If I had a business, that’s not something I’d trust to your cousin’s hairdresser’s nephew. I’d want a professional. Because that’s what designers are: professionals.

Now go get out of here, and always remember to name your Photoshop layers.


Steph A said...

Omg, unnamed pshop layers make me seethe. And i encounter them every. Damn. Day.

chimes said...

love the re-edit. I'll post at some point. Because this still pisses me off (not your post, the topic).