107. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Design?
Jun 30, 2007 at 12:54PM
jj

toolbox.jpgWhat a great topic on which to begin the first article of the new Graphicology. That is, whether the name itself - or more specifically the title of what we do – is it accurate? Is being called a graphic designer an outdated term? Is it limiting? Does it have the wrong connotation? Keep in mind that I've never even had the title of graphic designer - my title has always been art director (or later, senior art director or associate creative director.) But the problem is the same - should we call ourselves communication designers as Errol Saldanha suggests on beyondgraphic.com? Would this site of ours be better served were it called communication-ology? Or Design-ology? Conversely, is Marian Bantes correct when she suggests on SpeakUp that using a more business-minded, strategic title emphasizes what you have in common with a client and not what separates you or makes you special/needed?

After much thought, I have chosen to stick with the graphic part. This is not to say that I don't understand the allure of turning away from graphic design as a job title. Heck, I'm just as strategic, intellectual and bottom-line minded as any CEO out there – at least in terms of how it relates to a design project. I simply feel that we cannot afford to water-down the magic that we can bring to a client with terms and titles that are familiar or more approachable from an executive's perspective but in the end less descriptive and generic. I have personally witnessed too many clients fail when trying to be all things to all consumers to so easily fall into the same trap myself. And although 'graphic designer' does not sufficiently explain all the mediums we manipulate or areas of expertise we may possess such as words, sound, or animation. It does give distinction from other designers - architects, engineers and the like - as well as connect us to a rich history of those great graphic designers that have come before us. Does anyone really believe that Paul Rand or Jan Tschichold would not have thrived in the current environment where the distinctions between art and business are blurring? Ultimately, I do not think the title of graphic designer does any real harm or limits the opportunities of today's designer. A talented graphic designer - who approaches a project with not only an artist's curiosity, but with the strategic and communication skills necessary to build a solid long-term relationship with a client will still thrive. It's the reluctance to develop these professional skills by many graphic designers that reduces the industry's value in the marketplace not the name we choose to call ourselves. After all, it's supposed to be a broad summary of an industry or job title, not a precise description of every attribute we posses. But, what do you think? 

Update on Jul 2, 2007 at 11:02PM by Registered Commenterjj

Or... maybe you might prefer Seth Godin's approach. In Small is the New Big he describes his difficulty in choosing an occupation on a customs form at the airport. Suggesting we take a multipational (the workplace equivalent of multinational) view, he implies that we should all embrace the reality that we really have more than one occupation at the same time. So sometimes you design, sometimes you provide customer service, sometimes you function as the account executive and sometimes you provide psychological comfort to a client. You need a new title that acknowledges all of these job descriptions. Godin might suggest, "manipulator of art and business" or "marketing manager stress reliever and job security/bonus provider." You get the idea. But again, I'm sticking with graphic designer and will trust that my clients will come to know exactly what that can mean in relation to their bottom line.

Article originally appeared on Graphicology (http://www.graphicology.com/).
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