Design and Capitalism
Many designers are simply grateful to be creating design work. Even more so to be paid for it. But as designers, we need to raise our collective standards of how we perceive our own work.
I think its fair to say that the vast majority of designers get great pleasure from our work. We love what we do, and if we didn’t we wouldn’t be doing it. Design is a tough field to work in and make it. And I have yet to hear a designer say he or she went into the field in order to strike it rich (although we all want to be successful, of course). Indeed as graphic designers we hope we might live comfortably and would be pleased to have a life of making great work for clients we enjoy.
Of course, the reality is not so crisp. Too many designers complain of bad clients, who won’t pay up and have no respect for our work. In my own career I was (fortunate) enough to experience this early on and I learned quickly the need to stand up for myself and have solid contracts.
But even this isn’t enough. When we create design, what we are doing is creating value for the business that we work with. A lot of designers don’t really understand how important that is and what that really means — but more on this later.
Can you imagine Apple without its sleek products and interface? Or Coca-Cola without its iconic red colour and logotype? How about when you go to the grocery store and you choose among two equally priced products?
Design, and specifically graphic design, has added enormous value to all these businesses. To almost all businesses in fact. Our job as graphic designers is to create the perception that people have of a business. If that business had a poor or even mediocre perception, they would not have customers. What we precisely do as designers is create value for the businesses we work with. And creating value is precisely that, valuable.
We as graphic designers need to understand the power we have in our hands and creative minds. When we are approached by a client, we need to clearly communicate the value that design brings to their business.
When I have spoken with potential clients, it is clear when they value quality design and when they see it as an accessory. We as designers need to educate our clients on the importance of design to the perception of their business, and get more people to realize that design is the interface through which we interact with the entire world.
Without standing up for ourselves collectively, it will be too easy for clients to push us into accepting lower pay then we deserve while devaluing the heart and soul we put into everything we do. Its not just good design practice for ourselves, its good for the world.