DTDT: Designer

This is part of group of articles trying to define various design terms.

When we say “designer” what do we mean?

Ok this might end up as a rant… but before I rant:

In a professional environment, when we say designer we mean a person trained, skilled in, and employed to create designs.

Why do we have to define what a “designer” means? Because various industry big cheeses like to say “everyone’s a designers”, which is of course bollocks. But also somewhat true. Contrasting meanings depending on context are the perfect condition for outrage-baiting headlines. While as some of our industry leaders align design with amateurism for clout, the result is diminished view of design as profession.

A couple of quotes lifted from here https://thenextweb.com/news/why-everyone-is-a-designer-but-shouldnt-design

“Design is everywhere, inevitably everyone is a designer,”

Tim Brown

“We are all designers. We manipulate the environment, the better to serve our needs. We select what items to own, which to have around us. We build, buy, arrange and restructure: all this is a form of design.”

Don Norman

And one more for luck:

Everyone is a designer. Not everyone is a good designer. Everyone can become a better designer.

Jared Spool on Twitter

It’s true, obviously, that everyone can contribute to or create a design. There’s not qualification needed to design something, a desire to make stuff and improve stuff is part of the human condition. There’s a strong argument design is older than humanity, with stone tools predating Humans by about a million years. ‘Someone’ designed those tools, right? This is the ‘everyone is designer’ definition of amateur designer. It’s wonderfully inclusive, which is good. (You don’t even need to be human to design.)

Design sometimes has a challenge for people to take it seriously. Digital design -UI design, UX design, Service design, IA – is a relatively young profession and not everyone understands what a designer does beyond ‘make it pretty’. In a professional environment if we say “She’s a designer” we mean that she has job title with a Designer in it, and she gets paid good money to design professionally. This the definition of a professional designer. If people are hear ‘everyone is a designer’ out of context it devalues the work we love and get paid for.

We need to keep the ideas of amateur and professional designer separate. Tim, Don, and Jared could just have said “Everyone can design” and I wouldn’t be ranting here. Or “Everyone designs”. Deliberately confusing the terms does no-one any favours.