Software Does Not Make a Designer

A few years ago it seemed like suddenly everyone was a graphic designer. After becoming a real estate agent became passé, becoming a graphic designer was the thing for a certain bored segment of the population who didn't have enough to do and didn't really need the money.

They went out and bought themselves a computer and a layout program (usually Pagemaker, Corel Draw or Microsoft Publisher). Of course the current professional software at the time was called QuarkXPress. They bought sets of clip art and said they'd design business cards for their friends on the cul-de-sac. With a few exceptions, the work that was produced was execrable.

Of course, the same thing happened a couple of years later with web design. Suddenly everyone went out and got a consumer level WYSIWYG web editor and managed to talk people into trusting them with their websites. Then people with software expertise got into the act, making sites that had cutting edge technology all over them. The fact that they made no sense, were impossible to navigate and were often headache inducing didn't matter. If the tool (or, rather, toy) was there, it MUST be used.

I like to call this "Flaming Logo Syndrome". To see what I mean, check out prophetic and great ad from IBM a few years ago.

There are a lot of tools of various levels of difficulty out there and anyone can purchase them. Some of them are even good enough to become industry standards, like the current Adobe Creative Suite.

I’m a lousy carpenter. This doesn’t mean I don’t have good tools (as every guy is told he’s supposed to). I have a pair of absolutely great hammers, a Hart Framer and a Hart Trimmer. These are as good as it gets when it comes to hammers, professional carpenters drool over them. I’m still a lousy carpenter. I can put up something incredibly ugly and somewhat useful if it’s absolutely necessary - but it’s much better if I pay someone who actually knows what they’re doing and is good at it. Funny thing, though, if I pay someone to do a piece of carpentry, it invariably costs me less money. Everything that I build myself needs to be rebuilt or fixed, usually costing more in the end.

Like carpentry, design requires a certain level of skill, aptitude and training. At a fundamental level, though, there are intangibles that can’t be taught. Design is an intuitive sense of spatial relationships. Of course the tools can be purchased and learned and there are some guidelines that can be taught but if a "designer" doesn't understand how shapes inter-relate, they will never be able to use the tools available to them properly.


Back to Musings