God, how I wish I made furniture. Not just designed it, but built it. That way I’d have an answer for the question “What do you do for a living?” If I built furniture like my good pal Dan, I could point to a table and say, I made that table. But no, I have to answer, “I’m a designer.”
This always begs the question, “Of what?” And then I say I make things that I think sound important like annual reports, collateral materials, identity systems. Which we all know sounds like a bunch of gobbledygook, and doesn’t at all get to the important part of what we do every day. As designers we often get caught up in defining our jobs as the physical things we produce. But that’s not really the job description. If you say you make annual reports people will honestly ask you if you printed them, including the smart people. Then you have to say no, and spin your wheels trying to come up with something better.
So, what is our job description? I hope to hell it’s not what I see posted on job boards. Because if that’s the case I don’t think I want to be in this profession. I want no part of having a “killer” book, or having some sort of abnormally high energy I don’t know anything about. Graphic design is a much greater, much more incredibly interesting thing than the ephemera it produces.
Graphic Designers make it so their visual interpretations of ideas are made real. Which sounds ultra haughty, which makes me kind of hate the phrase and also makes it no better answer at a dinner party. However, the idea, this is the thing that keeps us up at night, that mulls around in our brain until it spills out of our heads in that aha moment. That’s what engages us. And that’s what, hopefully, we’re all trying to get better at. That’s the job. Which is difficult to say to the structural engineer sitting across from you at your wife’s Christmas party.
I propose we ban together as a profession and simply tell these outsiders that we’re designers. And when they say “of what?”, you tell them to just imagine something –we’re working on it.