It has been my experience, as I have connected with other designers [via twitter or other means], that there are a lot of designers out there who seem very involved in the design community but actually have little to no real experience in design. This raised two questions for me (which are addressed is this post):
1. Are most designers I communicate with online avid “Hobbyists” or practicing “Professionals”.
2. Which is more desirable when it comes to graphic design: to be a passionate “Hobbyist” or experienced “Professional”? and where is that line drawn?
Help me answer the above questions
by leaving your comments on this post.
Two distinct designers
“I consider myself a freelance graphic designer. I take odd jobs when they come my way but most of my work comes from myself. I like to submit really cool or funny ideas that I have to places like LogoPond.com and see what people think. I haven’t had any formal education in design and I already have a full-time job so I don’t have as much time to design as I would like, but I like to doodle and make cool things in Photoshop when I have some extra free-time. A lot of my free time is also spent blogging or tweeting about design. I’m all about making cool things and being creative.”
“I consider myself a professional designer because I have gained a formal education in the matter and now work full-time designing things exclusively for big clients. For me, design is simply a problem-solving process. If I submit a series of logos to a client, for example, I generally let the client make whatever changes they want because, when it comes down to it, design is just a business and ‘the customer is always right’. I’m all about making money and solving problems.”
- “I like to doodle and make cool things in Photoshop when I have some extra free-time”
The hobbyist is always striving to learn and grow because he understands there is always something more to learn in the world of graphic design.
- “…my free time is also spent blogging or tweeting about design.”
The hobbyist likes to stay up-to-date and connects with other hobbyists and professionals in the design community.
- “I’m all about … being creative.“
The hobbyist understands the importance of being creative when designing for others and therefore, his work is always very original and exciting.
- “…[I] work full-time designing things.”
The professional understands that there are few things in the world that can compensate for full-time experience in any discipline- this includes graphic design.
- “…design is … a business”
The professional understands that design is not only a great outlet and creative activity but it is also a business. If he isn’t making a profit, he is doing something wrong.
- “I’m all about … solving problems.”
The professional understands that graphic design that does not solve a problem, is simply art. Real graphic design solves problems for a client and helps achieve a specific goal.
- “…most of my work comes from myself.”
The hobbyist lacks the important experience of establishing a relationship with a client. His designs are almost too perfect because he has no one overseeing the project with him. Therefore, he encounters few to no obstacles when designing.
- “I like to submit really cool or funny ideas that I have to places like LogoPond.com and see what people think”
Many times, the logos or other design pieces that the hobbyist submits to online critique and sharing sites have not fulfilled a purpose. Although it may be good to share work with others and receive critique, most of his designs have not actually solved a problem and, therefore, are simply art or illustration – not graphic design.
- “I haven’t had any formal education”
While some may disagree, a formal education can give you the edge over another designer. The hobbyist may argue that he simply knows what “looks good” but the truth is, he doesn’t know why it looks good. This makes it harder to be efficient or replicate successful design.
- “I’m all about making cool things”
When the goal is simply to “make cool things” the experience in problem solving is demolished. Without a problem-solving process, the hobbyist is creating “pretty artwork” not graphic design.
- “…[I] work full-time designing things exclusively for big clients.”
Designing exclusively for big clients is not necessarily a good thing. There is much to be said for the designer who can master the ability to design for any client on any budget – big or small.
- “I generally let the client make whatever changes they want”
After years of “fighting” with clients over the rights and wrongs of graphic design, the professional has become tired and simply lets the client drive too much of the creative process. There are many solutions to this problem.
- “the customer is always right”
Just because they pay the bills doesn’t necessarily mean the client knows which design will be most successful for their company. The professional may need to take more initiative in explaining politely to the client why they are wrong and why the designer is right.
- “I’m all about making money”
When a designer is focused simply on making money, the result is usually shoddy work and rushed results. There needs to be a fine balance between getting work done and doing it well and creatively.
Finding the perfect combination
As you’ve probably noticed, these are distinct designers at each extreme end of the spectrum. Let’s examine each of the above scenarios and combine attributes from each to create the “Ideal Graphic Designer”. In my mind, the ideal graphic designer would posses these (and other) attributes.
- Highly Creative
- Focused on problem-solving
Where are you? Keep this discussion going by leaving a comment.
Now it is your turn to contribute. Where do you lie on this spectrum? Are you a graphic design hobbyist? or professional? What other attributes have you seen (good or bad) in other designers.
Article by Preston Lee