In the year 2000 at the height of the Dot-Com bubble, Web Design was one of the hottest industries to be a part of. I can still remember the big AIGA conference I attended in San Francisco. One of the things I remember about that conference was the makeshift bookstore which peddled an endless assortment of mesmerizing eye candy from the likes of David Carson.
David Carson! David Carson!
I don’t think there was a graphic designer back then that didn’t eat up the highly stylized visual design that David Carson served up in design annuals, magazines, books and even on the Web.
Only one problem. David Carson is a Graphic Designer. And the interactive medium needs more Designers (creative problem solvers). Sure we need designs to be visually appealing and on brand. But when Graphic Designers put personal taste and style in front of solving problems... or worse yet, ignore the interactive part of interaction design—they become commercial artists or illustrators instead of designers. They become decorators instead of design thinkers. And we all lose our place at the tables of business + strategy.
Andy Rutledge has penned a must-read regarding this topic. It’s what inspired the visual associated with this post. Go take a look at the entire piece when you have the time.
Here a few choice bits:
"There is a difference between art and design; the same distinction that describes the difference between doing something notable and doing something useful. It has long been my perception that too many traditional graphic designers don’t understand and don’t care to understand these distinctions. And I continue to see evidence to support this impression as graphic designers struggle to approach and embrace business and the Web.And I do mean struggle. In her column in Communication Arts magazine issue 331 (in late 2004), DK Holland quoted that year’s AIGA National Conference organizer Terry Irwin as saying, “There is still a fairly big old guard [in AIGA] that wants to practice design as a primarily decorative, artistic practice in a market dominated by the ‘celebrity designer.’” How unfortunate that this “old guard” doesn’t understand that decoration and art are not design. And what’s with this preoccupation with celebrity?"
"The graphic design culture clearly champions peer-driven accolades for over client benefit from its work. And this is especially troubling, as the design profession has little to do with subjective appreciation and everything to do with problem-solving success."
"Open any graphic design magazine or go to any graphic design organization’s website and there is one feature you will always find: information about design awards. There is always a Call For Entries or a listing of what individuals or which agency just won some award or another. Visit just about any ad agency’s website and you’re apt to find a main navigation link to “awards.”
"I’m not a “graphic designer” by the traditional definition but I take no joy in seeing these things. But as a designer, I’m not happy about being associated in any way with such irresponsibility and distraction. The graphic design community makes my job harder as it serves to mis-define and garner contempt for my profession. That community is floundering today and I look forward to the day when it finds its feet, its common sense, and its relevancy. And perhaps it’s time for the prominent organizations and publications to stop reflecting the needs and desires of the “old guard” and start representing the needs and desires of the profession and its clients."
You may or may not agree with Andy's thesis. But either way, if you care about the design profession—the read is worth your time.