Are all designers wankers?


When you're a student, breaking into the big bad industry can seem a daunting prospect. In the latest issue of Desktop Magazine, seven of Australia's leading creatives (including our Creative Director, Jason) answered some burning questions from students around the country.

See the 'sealed' section after the jump.

The belief that designers are wankers puzzles me. Are architects wankers? Is fashion wanky? Is creativity just a blatant wankfest that revels in its own status and ideas? Who says, or decided it so?

For a start, I question whether this label is in fact a relic from our own industry, rather than the greater population. I just don’t think people care one way or another about a designer in their day-to-day goings on. In which case is it actually a self-deprecating term that designers had once given themselves? Perhaps it could have even come from those in client service, who enviously “rise and sleep under the blanket of creativity in which I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it”, as Mr. Nicholson calls it in ‘A few good creatives’.

I don’t believe designers are wankers. Sure skinny black jeans and scarily low V-neck tees don’t help this image. The wearing of scarfs in relatively warm weather equally doesn’t help the label. I once wore a scarf whilst giving a design talk in Cape Town, which sounds really wanky saying it, but honestly I wasn’t trying to be one, it was just really cold.

So back to the topic at hand. Why the term? It may be a bit of a generalization, but the days of designers complaining or throwing tantrums are long gone: no whining about making a logo bigger, making the type size larger than 6pt; or that the client just doesn’t get what we’re trying to do.

The designer of yester-year was shrouded in mystery. We worked behind closed doors and expected people to understand our creative decisions, and why route 2 was absolutely the best course of action. So of course we may have simply been misunderstood by our colleagues and clients, which in turn led to a wrongly assigned labeling.

These days the role of designers, and especially graphic designers, is a moving feast. We now operate in a space where design is acknowledged as critical for businesses to succeed, and with that, a newfound understanding of design.

We’ve had to become more open and collaborative with our clients, adapting to their world quickly and with a greater level of business acumen.

Designers are now solving serious business problems, changing employee behavior, raising stock prices, defining destinations and helping to transform organizations and corporations.We’re now more than ever before, critical to the success or failure of a business, and with that acknowledgement, we’ve had to get more serious. Sure we all have the tendency to get caught up in buzz words and design lingo every once in a while, but you only have to hear other designers talking jargon, to know the error of your ways and rectify the problem.

A possible alternative reason for the ‘wanker’ label, could simply be down to the fact that designers love what they do. Design is an truly exciting profession to be part of. For a start we turn up to work in the clothing we choose – no corporate office wear thank you very much. A job where music plays constantly – the playlist usually decided by the most up-to-date music aficionado (music wanker).

How about the actual work we do. It’s never the same in any given day. It means we have to become experts in every industry and business we’re fortunate to work with, increasing our knowledge and understanding, resulting in trivial pursuit prowess and pub quiz champ status (except sport questions).

And then there’s the perks that come with the job: Foosball, table tennis, breakfast – even if it’s simply an unlimited supply of vegemite and toast, and way too many beers consumed in and out of the office to be legal.If I wasn’t in design, I too might think ‘lucky bastards’ or even ‘wankers’.

Now in a complete 180 degree turn, there is one area I would whole-heartedly agree that designers are wankers: our habit of criticising and laying judgment on others in our profession. Too easily do we point the finger at people’s work, rate it as terrible, and delight when others to join in like sheep. It’s an unfortunate insecurity that plagues us.

A united industry – one able to give constructive feedback and criticism, not simply criticise, is one that will help shed the unconfident and insecure side of design. A shared optimism and belief in making the world better through creativity can only be a good thing. So let’s move on from the dated and irrelevant nickname that has no validity in describing a truly exciting profession.

Peace, and I’m out of here. (Wanker.)