The Great Interpreters
There has been a movement within the design industry for designers to become generators of their own content. After all we are all convinced that content is king. While it's true that if you have a stellar message or a remarkable product the design and branding are easy, it is also true that design can make humdrum content special.
By focusing so heavily on the authorship of content the language of design becomes slightly discounted. The vocabulary of line, color, composition, scale, contrast hold incredible sway over the meaning of what we try to communicate.
Designers fear that people will pejoratively use the word "just" when they say design is just styling the message. But we all know the sincere importance of the language of style and design. After all, the content many are authoring is a complete fiction, but design and design strategy can effect people and culture in such a way that the fiction becomes a reality. When, as brand strategists, we author the values and attributes of a brand – even if completely aspirational or invented – the brand will eventually behave with those values in mind. This is a powerful thing. Design plays an integral role in that behavior as it is an outward expression of those values.
The discounting of design as a service to clients leads to posts like this from the great Seth Godin (he's a genius, but on this one I think he missed the mark) :
CLIENTS VS. CUSTOMERS
You need to choose.
Customers hear you say, "here, I made this," and they buy or they don't buy.
Clients say to you, "I need this," and if you want to get paid, you make it.
The customer, ironically, doesn't get something custom. The key distinction is who goes first, who gets to decide when it's done.
The provider is rarely better than the clients he is able to attract. On the other hand, the creator often gets the customers she deserves.
By essentially belittling the client relationship we encourage the designer as author paradigm. This paradigm is enticing to designers as it is akin to making designers artists. But while design involves some level of authorship it is also interpretive. We are interpreting the needs and aspirations of our clients. This is a huge responsibility. The idea that we should be better than our clients is a completely odd way to frame the relationship. If you're truly partner with you're clients you aren't trying to be "better" than them, your are them. You are their great interpreter. And that's nothing to discount.