Michael Bierut has put it well in his 4th of 79 essays ‘How to become famous’.
“…Madonna and David Letterman are famous. Most normal people, on the other hand, have never heard of Milton Glaser or Paul Rand.”
Mike Rigby and Chris Doyle have also touched on this with their AGDA talk on ‘How to tell your parents you’re a graphic designer‘.
We’ve all sat around the family table at christmas and tried yet again to explain to our dear old grandmothers what it is we do and how come we spend so much of our time doing it. Yet within the realms of our industry there are so called celebrities, inner circles with-in inner circles, secret societies…well that might be going a little too far. The fact of the matter is what we signed up for particularly us designers is not celebrity status or recognition. It’s not to say that these things don’t help, but perhaps it’s time we redefine what we mean by it. Is it just the ability to be social, to get to know your clients well, being likeable so that more people will want to work with you? Is that what we’re seeking? Or do we just want to inspire our peers so that our industry remains strong and relevant?
Obviously what we do as designers is not comparable to curing disease or launching rockets into space and we’re certainly not the sorts to appear on the cover of some glossy mag caught in a big relationship scandal. What we do is simply not seen on a global scale, or certainly not recognised, it’s probably because the average person just doesn’t know how design can impact the world. Take Michael Johnson’s article ‘What’s in a name?Just about everything’. He describes how charity brands have evolved into active campaigns, and the success of this sort of branding for these charities can actually be measured, if more people understood that this is what design is about maybe we would start to get the appraisal we seek.
In our industry it is fair to say that there are leaders that do get treated a little like rockstars. We’ve all heard of the design greats such as Paul Rand, Wim Crouwel, Jan Tschichold, Joseph Muller-Brockmann, and more recently Stefan Sagmeister, Paula Scher, Michael Bierut etc but your Mum and Dad certainly have never heard of them, unless they are of course designers themselves. We need these people to look up to, they remind us that originality and strength of ideas is key to design.
What is becoming clear is that our industry as whole is what needs recognition. A designers role is to make their clients visible or even famous – Re says that ‘ we work with ambitious clients to build notorious brands’. Perhaps celebrity status is a form of communicating to the rest of the world that what we do is important to them, therefore celebrity status is a role defined by the world outside our industry as a measure for success it’s not something however we individually seek, but for the betterment of our industry it’s something we may have to consider.
Alexis Waller Senior Designer at Re
Reference: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design. Michael Bierut What’s in a name? Just about everything. Michael Johnson