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23rd November
2008
written by Tony
I've got something you can do to yourself...

I can think of something you can do to yourself...

Recently I was wandering through a bookstore when a particular title caught my eye. Now I've seen this book before, and books like it, and every time I do, it kind of makes me want to find the author and use the book to do very illegal things myself (who needs professional criminals these days?). Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for saving money and cutting out the middle man, I mean, I'm a card carrying Sam's Club member. That's essentially a big screw off to traditional grocery stores. There is, however, a difference. It's not the money saving thing I don't like, it's not the personal initiative that bothers me. It's the mentality behind this kind of thing, this populist attitude that shouts "I know the only reason you're a designer is that you can use Photoshop!" Or even "anyone can take wedding photos, they just need a camera like yours, right?" Someone actually said the latter to me at a wedding that I was shooting, for money paid by the person saying it. My ideal response would have been, why have you hired me? Why am I even here if any jackass with a camera can do what I do? My actual response was more along the lines of: "If it were that simple, I don't think I would have gone to school for it."

Oh my God, calm down!

Sorry, guy. Google picked you, not me.

Sorry, guy. Google picked you, not me.

No! This attitude is endemic in our society, and is only getting worse as computers and digital cameras get better and cheaper. I suppose that some of this can be attributed to the attitude that anyone can do anything they want (á la reality TV) if they only try hard enough. This isn't true. Granted, there is effort involved in anything. No design is pure talent. Some of it is luck, some is skill, some is learned and some is, of course, natural aptitude. I don't want to sound like an elitist here, but it's unavoidable. Not everyone can design. Not everyone has an eye for composition. In fact, very few people do. "But Tony, I have Photoshop. It does everything." I will kill the next person who says that to me. I will.

So what's really bothering me?

The bigger issue we have is with clients who are exposed to this culture, this idea that for only $800 they, too, could be designers. But, since they have no reason to make that investment, they will settle for simple art direction. After all, designers don't have reasons for the choices they make, most of that is arbitrary, right? Let's say I have a house that is a post-modern colonial (Architects are usually assholes, trust me - but this is a topic for another post) and I have this family room, and I want to to warm it up and add some real style to it, I'll put in some Greek columns, with Doric capitals and presto! I'm an interior designer!

Think before you speak. Or do anything.

People with opinions don't bother me. People who think things through and make suggestions don't bother me either. I'm all for a client who has an opinion that is well founded and the result of some logical thought. It just so happens that these are usually people who appreciate what designers do. What bothers me is the idea that Designers, photographers, et al are not necessary. That the training we receive is simply technical in nature. This thought that all we do is run the technology and the machine takes care of the rest is what really kills me, as though conceptual thinking is handled under the "view" menu. Interestingly, people tend not to apply this to other professions. "Damn, if I had an airplane, I could do that."

Design is hard.

Photography is hard. I've had other jobs, service jobs, sales jobs, I know people who do all kinds of things. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of jobs out there that are really hard, for a lot of reasons. Here is part of why I think design is one of them. Sometimes I think that being a designer is one of the most mentally difficult jobs available, not just because it isn't easy making something 10,000 people will find attractive, but because it's all you. Designers take more blame than any other team member if something goes wrong. If everything goes well, that was a great team effort, but if the client is picky and bails out, that sure was a bad design. And who is the fastest to blame the designer? Usually the person who thinks the designer is the most expendable.

No Comments

  1. stephandtony
    11/23/2008

    But it’s totally cool for me to say I want a design to be warmer, by which I mean “include more curves”, right? It’s not as though there is an accepted parlance in the field, is there? 😉

    -Steph

  2. taryn
    11/27/2008

    I have no idea what Steph’s response is in relation to, nor do i necessarily want to know.
    I just wanted to say: nice post, McPuppies!

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