Monday, June 1, 2009

Everyone is a designer. Yes?

by: Thierry van Kerm

Besides the common question about what is design, another is what is a designer or rather, who is a designer? If we are convinced that design is all around us, and that we live in a designed world, then is everyone a designer? And, in that sense, how can a designer make a living or make a difference?

When lecturing I am often asked by designers or companies, who is a designer and who is not. I simply ask the audience, who has a camera? Usually all hands go up because everyone has a camera. Then I ask, who takes pictures? All hands go up again. Why would you have a camera if not to take pictures? Then I ask, who has had images published? A few hands down but most people keep pointing their fingers to the ceiling. We all have published an image in a book, in a newsletter or on a blog, haven’t we? Then I ask, who is a photographer? Only a couple of hands are still up. So, most of us are taking pictures and most of us are publishing pictures. In this situation, how is the professional photographer supposed to earn a living? What does a professional photographer have to do to convince you to pay for his or her services?

Designers face exactly the same problem, how to convince clients who have managed for years without a designer to pay for their services? The answer is very simple. By demonstrating sound strong expertise, skills, knowledge and competences on the one hand and on the other demonstrating that paying for the services of a designer will in the end be a benefit to the client not a cost. Working with a professional designer has to make the difference in terms of return on the client’s investment. It’s not a question of being money-driven or not, its just a question of understanding the client’s concerns.

It sounds easy but it doesn’t always work out that way would be the usual answer from designers. It is not easy not because what I said was wrong but because they may have not been taught in terms of expertise, skills, competence and knowledge. Designers may have gained some of these capabilities through their education or careers but it may never been given its due priority. Therefore, they may not be able to demonstrate to clients or potential employers a designer’s added value.

As we see, the key is education, whether in school, college, university or lifelong learning. Educators have a major role to play helping designers acquire appropriate skills, competences and knowledge. They can make a difference by proposing projects in terms of conscious skills, competence and knowledge development, by assessing skills, competences and knowledge development as well the aesthetics of the projects. And, they can help students evaluate their projects against a clear predefined brief and test the outcomes against real world values.

Of course, the next question is, what are the relevant skills, competences and knowledge that are required, and how can students and graduates gain these capabilities? Good questions for a future debate.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

article source: EDTI (European Design Training Incubator)

illustration by Jonathan Puckey, a graphic designer based in amsterdam who creates work that borders on art and employs technology in new ways.

No comments: