You, Your Credentials Mean Nothing

The ability to remain humble is not something many renowned graphic designers possess, which is no surprise if you’ve met one. Although, it’s not abnormal for them to possess a very specific ability — which is the ability to harbor a massive, unrelenting ego.

The world of graphic design is a rather small one, and while its products certainly affect those outside of it, those which feel the effect often do not know what person or even what profession is the source. Designers are invisible to the vast majority of the public, and they always will be. Unless you’re conditioned to stop and break down the nuances of the visual communication you’re encountering, which designers are, you absorb what you find necessary, and you carry on.

We designers are a small group of people who are obsessed with putting their peers on pedestals. Is it due to the outside world not acknowledging the self described brilliance that we’ve applied to ourselves? Do we hope that if we praise a peer to a disgusting degree, shower them with meaningless awards, and treat them like royalty that in the future someone will do that for all of us?

We should be people who not only create, but who can also look at something and see the flaws, know what steps can be taken to address the issues, and tear it down. We should intrinsically be critical thinkers, most especially about ourselves and those we keep closest. Which as a whole, we’re not doing. We treat renowned designers as celebrities, hold galas to honor them, and hold far too many competitions in order to build up the next crop of superstars so we all know whose ass to pucker up to next.

It seems that we’ve now hit a very critical point, in which we no longer can collectively disagree with a certain amount of designers due to the godlike status that we’ve laid upon them. We’ve lost the power to criticize a king or queen that we helped to the throne.

We’ve created a society in which an award winning designer (whose awards are jokes) is seen in the right, often without challenge, due to the length of their award credentials. We’ve created a black and white world in which there is a clear divide between those whose opinion truly matters, and those whose opinion is to be heard, but not heeded. We’ve been instrumental in allowing a world to exist which now allows experience to trump evolution. Where the weight of your idea is measured by what you did, and not what you will do.

So, what do we do now? How about not listening to someone because of who they are, and instead listening to them for what they say. For what they say now can undo who they were, or still are.

Most importantly, do not put any stock in someone based on a medal around their neck, or an award in their office. Those pieces of metal and paper are the product of meaningless fundraisers (design competitions) and prey on the appetite of egos to thrive.

In closing, if you think listing your credentials after your name gives your opinion more weight, importance, or might, then you’re a fool. In a community as small as the design one, just being a part of it should be enough to have your voice heard. You can speak alone, or in numbers, and you should be counted. Sign your name as who you are — not what the outcome of an ego building panel claims you are.

Nicholas Burroughs, Graphic Designer