I’ve been watching this blog with interest (and dismay) as designers deride our prospects and clients for choosing cheap alternatives for their businesses. I believe my friends and partners in design need to face up to their own responsibility in this issue.
Ask yourselves this: How does a client know what type and quality of services they are getting when they hire a “designer” or “design firm” ?
Anyone can call themselves a designer. There are no official and accepted differentiations between the highest and lowest levels of services, training and experience. No testing and licensing. Nothing in the title “designer” to allow the buyer to determine value. Is the “designer” an hourly employee of a speedy-print shop or someone who took a workshop in InDesign, who regard “design” as arranging type and graphics in pleasing ways?
Or is the “designer” a high-level professional trained to solve the complex issues of product and corporate identity and skilled in adapting the brand solution to the full range of print, motion and digital media based on the dynamics of human perception? That is, someone trained in these skills at a world-class university like the prestigious Institute of Design in Chicago or the LA Design Center? No way for a client to tell what they can expect for their money.
In the last decades of his life, jazz legend Duke Ellington refused to use the term “jazz.” His point: The term “jazz” was applied to such a variety of genres that it no longer had meaning. You could be getting John Coltrane, the Dukes of Dixieland or Kenny G.
So let’s put our collective branding skills to work, developing more descriptive and differentiating titles for what we do. How about something like “User Experience Engineer” or “Communications Architect” or “Marketing System Designer” or “Brand Builder” for our higher-level design skills? Think about it and share your ideas with us. But please, leave “graphic designer” where it belongs… with the hardworking kid at the local speedy-print.
The least sophisticated clients will still probably choose the cheapest solution… but at least we’ll have done our part in establishing a hierarchy of value for ourselves.