Monday, October 8, 2007

Design Guy, Episode 9, Designer's Attributes Pt. 3

Download Episode 9

Design Guy here, welcome to the show. This is the program that explores the timeless principles of design and explains them simply.

Now, we've been talking about the attributes of the designer. And today, we'll conclude this little rabbit trail with one final observation or truism. And while I call this an attribute, there's a sense in which it's really an aspiration or ideal that encompasses everything we want to be as designers. So, here goes:

Designers have a love for The Craft.

And, when I say craft, I've got a couple of shades of meaning in mind. The first one refers to that affinity or reverence that we've got for the tools and techniques of our trade. Just as an iron smith loves the hammer and the glowing iron and the sparks that fly, we, as designers love the process that we're engaged in, and all the tools and techniques that we use in order to ply our trade.

But graphic designers are engaged in an amazing hybrid of art and craft. On the one hand, design is an art with all of that creative mystique to it. There's that intangible and evasive muse or magic that we seek in the form of inspiration. Mysteriously, an idea forms within us and then we fashion it with our tools, giving it form and substance. It really is a wondrous thing. It's as if we pull rabbits out of hats.

On the other hand, we're engaged in a practical craft. We're like traditional tradesmen - we resemble plumbers or bricklayers who just go to work every day. We use techniques. We obey rules for activities like setting type. And in that respect, we don't always need muses or magic. And, come to think of it, have you ever heard a plumber complain that he couldn't fix your toilet for lack of inspiration? Or a bricklayer complain that he was too creatively blocked to build your patio? But, as designers, we've got this duality or hybrid thing going on. We're creative craftsmen.

But I mentioned that there's a second shade of meaning to the word, craft. When I say that designers love "The Craft," I'm also using the word as a proper noun to describe the family or guild of designers. As designers, we're part of a community. And this community is on a shared path of discovery, wherein we benefit from each other's ideas and discoveries as we share thoughts and ideas among ourselves. And we've also got a love for this community that I call The Craft in a protective sense, because we want to elevate our profession and not see it erode or be cheapened. We want to promote certain ideals for The Craft. We want designers to be ethical and maintain good practices and reputations for fairness and integrity. We want The Craft to have a good name. The Graphic Arts Guild, or G.A.G., is a testament to this idea. And, by the way, if you're not familiar with their book, which comes out every so often, you should look it up. It gives guidance to graphic artists on all manner of best practices, including pricing. As members of The Craft, we become aware that we're not alone. We've got heritage and history and lineage. We're part of something bigger than ourselves. We're members of a tradition that we can honor and contribute to as we fill the world with good design.

So, in closing, I encourage you to cultivate this love of craft. In both senses of the word. I wish you satisfaction as you ply your trade, and I also remind you that you're part of a unique community of craftsmen.

Until next time, this is Design Guy, I thank you again for listening.


Graphic Arts Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, North Light Books, 2001

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