What do graphic designers do and why is it important to EVERYONE?

Design can be a thankless job. It is also kind of an invisible job in a lot of ways. People don’t realize that it is all around them every day and even more than that, not many people consider that someone actually created all the design they use, see, and generally take for granted. So this week I want to talk about the importance of what we do, so that maybe those around us can recognize, understand, and at the very least, appreciate what we do as designers.

I talked briefly in post #49 about the fact that we have really important jobs as designers. I feel like the majority of the people around us don’t really understand what we do.We’ve all probably seen some version of this meme
It’s kind of funny but really, it’s kind of a second job for us as designers to try to explain what we do to people. I mean my mom still tells people I do graphic arts. I’m not sure what she means by that and I’m pretty sure sometimes she doesn’t either. I have a handful of friends outside of the creative industries that actually understand what I do, and that is because they have worked using my skills for something they were involved in.
I want to write about this today not only because it’s a frustration, but because until people understand what we do and what goes into it, the world will fail to value our work.
I think that most people see advertising/advertisers and they kind of get it. But they see all of the hype about how advertising is only out to sell sex and bad food and corrupting society at large. Like the meme above, society sees what we do as a bunch of photoshop work fixing and sometimes over-editing bodies and faces, and hamburgers to fool them and make them more insecure.

It’s tough to be a graphic designer these days.

We no longer live in the world of MadMen where people are in awe of our profession. Because of the scandals that advertising has caused in various industries, we are often looked at as more like manipulators and schemers just out to get people to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have. And while this might be true for certain things, we truly have much more important jobs than just selling junk people don’t need. And many graphic designers are not even in “advertising” at all. From packaging to apparel to magazine articles and logo design, we design the things that surround you every day and make life more beautiful and more useful.
Unfortunately, the majority of mankind fails to see that without a designer somewhere, whether sitting in their home office, all alone as the sole designer for a company, or in a room full of other designers at an advertising firm, that their everyday lives would have zero visual direction.Without designers, street signs and road signs would be impossible to read, all those trendy shirts everyone buys would be plain solid colors (or just plain white).
Without designers there would be no recognizable brand logos, or warning labels, there wouldn’t be any way for you to tell the difference between brands of the same product at the store- design is literally everywhere.
If you’ve ever seen a sign or bought anything, ever, you have been effected by design. In fact, it has become such a part of our daily lives that I’m convinced this is one of the reasons people don’t value it. Design in our lives is like breathing, it’s just there. We take it for granted, and we especially take for granted the people who pour blood, sweat, and yes, even tears over those designs. We don’t always realize it because most of the design around us we don’t even recognize as design. That brochure you just brought back from the doctors office was designed carefully (usually) so that you can get the most important information from it. Those nutrition labels that are on every food item you buy to ensure food quality and content were designed by someone to make sure that there was an easy and consistent way for you, the consumer, to know what is in your food. I could write a thousand words on all the things you take for granted that a designer has had a hand in.

Much of society thinks all we do is sell and manipulate.

Then there’s the people who think all we do is make stuff pretty or photoshopped. Basically the equivalent of coloring all day long and getting paid to do it. Unfortunately there are those designers out there who are imposters and don’t truly have a craft or a well thought out process to their work. But then there are the true believers in design, those of us who really believe that our work impacts people. And we know this because when we work we don’t just make designs that appeal to us or our own subjective opinions-we do research.
We research everything, and we question everything; and when we are all done—we question again.
We research who our client is, we research who we need to reach with our design, we research the best places to reach them, the most effective color schemes to attract and impact them, we question our choices for type and copy, we question the direction of our layout and we research what will be the best avenue to get this message out to the people we are trying to reach. Being a hepatic designer is not easy, not if you actually care about what you do. Graphic design an be a thankless industry, and that’s why you have to remember and know yourself and what you are doing to have confidence in what you do, because you may never be recognized for it.
Design is something you don’t realize that you need, until it no longer exists. We don’t exist simply to throw some fancy colors and fonts together to make your logo look pretty.
We are here to present you, to present your message, to a world of people who need what you have onto offer, in a way that is crystal clear and effective. This is valuable.
It’s valuable because it is needed. It’s valuable because not just anyone can do what we do. We are here to create that value for our clients, and in turn, for the world. We bring things to the table that no one else can.
Could you advertise your band on your own and try to sell homemade shirts and posters at your shows? Sure. But will they reflect who you are as musicians and also reflect who your fans are and how they feel about you? Nope. Could you pay $500 for a logo on Fiver and get 150 different logo options instead of hiring me or another professional, because you don’t really know what you want until you “see it”? Of course. But will it be completely customized to your business, or thought out and targeted to your audience? Probably not. Graphic design for every industry is a necessity, it should not be a luxury.

Do we make things look better and sometimes cool, yes.

Whether people understand or value what we do, the fact remains that we have really important jobs as designers. But there is there so much more that goes into our designs and it’s our job to explain to our client the true value of what we do.
It’s our job to show the people around us, not only our clients, but our friends and relatives, that design matters, and that what we do matters to the world around them.
It matters on a logo, a business card, a website or magazine, a book cover, a shirt design, a billboard or magazine ad. It matters because it is a part of everyone’s lives and without it the world would be a dreary and confusing place.
So if you’ve ever wondered what it is we designers do, I can tell you. We do psychology, we do sociology and history, we do business, we do fine art and English, we do trends, we do fashion and environment. We do important things.
Graphic designers who value what they do and pour themselves into it must be some of the most well rounded people around to do our jobs right. Design has value, the work the we do is valuable and deserves respect. I hope that this has encouraged those of you who are designers and have a hard time figuring out why what you do has value aside from the fact that you know how to use software no one else you know can use. And I hope that for those of you who don’t really know or understand what it is we do, that now you have a better idea. And to all the clients out there who think that we are just a bunch of overpaid artists with computers I read of a paintbrush, I hope that you can see that our time is valuable and the services and knowledge we have to offer can add so much to what you are trying to accomplish.
Share this post with people, share it with everyone who doesn’t care or understand, or care to understand what you do. Design is a wonderful world. I hope you’ll join me here again next week, because design matters.

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