What is Graphic Design? Answering this question (or attempting to) before I took Integrated Design Media and Contemporary Art was unbelievably fun – to watch. I had no idea what it was that I trained for and how I was a productive and valuable member of society. A few years freelancing had me realize that everyone was a designer and I was only employed because these designers had better things to do than figure out exactly how to use Photoshop – but they could do it if they wanted to!
My first couple of courses at SCAD put some things in perspective for me. I was reinforced in my suspicion that, indeed, everyone is a DIY designer, and our work (as professional DIY designers -_-) was devalued, AND the Graphic Design profession as a whole was suffering from a case of existential malaise. Then the fun part began and was introduced to the joys of 4th order design and design thinking. I was never going to fight turf wars with clients over 1st (and even 2nd or 3rd) order design. I was going to solve wicked problems instead, starting with the wicked problem of how to make ends meet without waiting tables on the weekend (rest assured, this is a problem that was thoroughly solved – by me becoming a programmer… I fought the turf war for design execution and in the process moved from print design to web design to front-end programming, right there, on the fringe of actual design work).
But seriously, to me, Graphic Design now means a marketing/ advertising/ design jack-of-all-trades know-it-all with a special concentration in Guru-style you-never-saw-that-coming business consultation practice. Not that I’m complaining. Well maybe complaining a little bit. In any case, my freelance practice has never been better, what with me designing a menu for a new restaurant and acting as the unofficial beverage director advising on beer and wine selections, or designing a website for a construction company and throwing in all the content, text and images. Design execution is still important, but only as important as a client thinks it is. I now see my role as consultant primarily and pen tool virtuoso secondarily. I have no reservations in refusing or subcontracting execution work (and by execution, I mean these projects where a client has a fully-formed design in mind and I’m just hired to flesh it out by a painful, slow and underpaid process of trial and error).
Graphic Design, like Art, is now whatever a designer and his client(s) agree is Graphic Design.
Goldsby-Smith, Tony. “Fourth Order Design: A Practical Perspective”. 1996. MIT
Brown, Tim. Change by Design
Buchanan, Richard. “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking”. 1995.