24 May Enric Jardí: The space of the profession
A while ago, an individual who keeps up with developments in graphic design in our country sent a message to the board members of the ADG-FAD. The e-mail included a link to a webpage that offered anyone the possibility of developing a graphic image by himself. Once the name of the company or individual was entered, it only took choosing a typography, a colour, visual effects—shadows, highlights, web 2.0 (by the way, the whole web 2.0 thing is on its way to becoming a mere graphic style) etc. If the user so wished, he could also add a symbol: a globe, an arrow, an initial or any drawing from the conventional repertoire of today’s corporate image. The system produced originals in PDF format, ready to be printed by the most common software applications. With different prices and offers, as compared to the regular fees of professionals, it seemed like a bargain.
I don’t know whether the system worked well, or even if it’s still in existence. But I know that this was not the only webpage that offered this type of services, and that in this particular instance the webpage had a well organised interface. It was easy to understand, efficient, user-friendly.
At any rate, the sender of the message, aware that we in the ADG board had already released some statements on subjects related to our professional practice, urged us with the best intentions that we “do something about it.”
Although the sender of the message and I share many ideas about how the profession ought to be, at the time I did not write anything back because I suspected that what he asked of me was not exactly what I felt had to be done. In fact, they seemed like polar opposites.
Since now the ADCV has extended me a kind invitation to speak here, away from home, I will take the opportunity to make some observations on this subject.
I feel that the main problem is that some people perceive a sort of professional intrusion in these kind of initiatives. It is as if someone was offering the public to make “design without designers”.
Is that it? Let us imagine for a moment that the quality of the service is good, and that it sticks to the original prices and deadlines, that is, very good ones. If this were the case, would it not be a reason to rejoice? Yes, I know it would have all graphic designers lining up at the welfare office. But what is really the problem? The work it could take from us? The quality of the service? Or that we are upset that they make it that easy for non-designers?
Let’s take it a step at a time. First of all, there is no intrusion on the profession. I would bet that whoever created the service was a graphic designer. With or without a degree, but certainly someone with enough experience to know how to set the parameters that delimited the possible offerings of the service. Furthermore, do we not intrude in other disciplines as well? Do we not act as writers, interior designers, typographers, editors, etc? etc. as soon as we get the chance and we can get away with it? Is that not one of the best aspects of our profession? And have you never considered, in light of the quality and prices of the work of some of our “professional” colleagues, that it would be good if a group of “intruders” were to come and displace them?
So the problem may be the quality, you would argue. But if you look at it closely, the method used in the site is not so different from many of the processes employed by design studios here when they are developing a corporate image. A process constricted by the submissiveness of the designer, who wants to finish up the job and charge for it, and who puts all his resources at the service of the client (what a drag the client is!) until the project is approved.
As for its resources, one cannot find them lacking. The website under discussion had a broad set of tools and in time such things will be perfected even more. Just think back to the typographical, photographic, and colour resources that were available when you first started working with your Mac fifteen years ago, and see what you have now.
I mean it when I say that we cannot think this is what will take our livelihood away from us. What I think really bothers us is that someone, for the purposes of making a profit (which by the way is the same reason every professional designer I know gets out of bed in the morning when the alarm goes off,) has devised a system that exposes that sometimes the process of design consists of choosing from a list of options. Which is curiously enough an approach that is referred to approvingly in our circle as “know how”.
If we give it some thought, such cheap design (or low-cost, if we would rather avoid sounding derogatory) has always existed in one form or another, and always had its place in the market. Our work, the work of professionals, will be valued to the extent that we are capable of explaining to society—to the clients, to the institutions, to the mass media—what the process of design is, and what we have to offer. Our work will be valued if we are capable of offering more frequently solutions that are not “standard” and make contributions that are new, smart, useful and durable. But if we work as machines do, we ought not be surprised if we are replaced by one.
Yet it makes no sense to make a guild that would dictate who is a designer and who is not. A designer is anyone who designs, whether we like it or not. This is the 21st century, and the whole guild thing should have been abolished by one of those enlightened kings that we never got to have in this country.