Show Me Your Papers!

Now and again those in the design profession are swept up in feelings of inadequacy, anger and fear (and I'm not talking about when they make a pitch). They fear things like $99 logos and the huge amount of under-prepared students coming out of schools looking to get into the profession. They fear their client's, cousin's, girlfriend's brother who's "creative." They fear anyone who gets a hold of a pirated copy of Photoshop. All of these people are out for their job.

Occasionally this brings up the idea of having some sort of accreditation process – some organizing entity that would pass out certificates conferring upon certain folks the designer's seal. And yet nothing ever happens and nothing ever comes of it. This is because 1.) designers are never organized enough to do anything, and 2.) it's a terrible idea.

Designers feel a kinship towards the profession of architecture. It's the notion that both professions shape the world we inhabit in powerful, life-altering ways. Architects are more than just accredited, they're licensed by the government. You don't have just any yahoo with a computer walking around claiming they're an architect like they claim to be designers. No way. And so designers seek out the paper that will be their bona fides. Hell, even barbers are licensed!

It should be noted that not one time has a poster killed anyone directly, unless a giant stack of them fell on somebody. A bad logo may cost customers, but rarely a life. There are generally speaking no design emergencies. And as it turns out, anyone with a pirated version of Photoshop actually can make a logo. All of this conspires against the need to license design. Beyond that there is a rather small and in some ways academically unsatisfying aspect to research methods in terms of design. Yes, we have color theory and a relatively skeletal history and survey. Yet in comparison to other aesthetic sciences like architecture and industrial design, it feels a little wanting.

That former paragraph scares designers a bit. It brings into question things like the value of design, the legitimacy of the profession, the legitimacy of the education for designers. Are designers just stylists? Should I have invested in cosmetology school? Maybe. It depends on your portfolio. However, accreditation will do little to nothing to solve this problem.

People still get their haircut at home even though there are licenses to be a "professional" barber. Some of them end up with a bowl haircut, or the spike/mullet I had in middle school (do not doubt it's stupendous badassness). Then there are the salons where you have to schedule a month in advance and pay through the nose. In the end, everybody's haircutting needs get served. The question you need to answer as a designer is whose needs are you serving and whose needs are you able to serve. They'll know if you're right for the job based on the only papers that matter – your portfolio; or based on your reputation; or that they know your mother. That's the business. So get good at it and show them those papers.