Monthly Archives: May 2005

A Designer’s Journey Toward Certification “reprinted”

I figured with the certification talk going on in various GD forums, I’d “reprint” this article written by Bill Johnston titled “A Designer’s Journey Toward Certification”.

Whether one is for certification or against it, it’s a fantastic read. Bill chronicles his observations over his 40 year career and details the changes in the industry over the last 4 decades which have led up to where we are today. Here are some snippets for the link-lazy among us:

In the 70’s things began to change. Hot type was dying, cold type was the wave of the future. Designers had to deal with ugly type spit out of IBM strike-on machines. They no longer had master compositor’s to lead them by the hand, they had to become expert at splicing & dicing as well as designing and drawing. Those that didn’t, didn’t make the cut.

In the 80’s there was more change still. Dedicated type setting systems were all the rage. Companies could save a ton of money by bringing typesetting inhouse. The trouble was the trained typesetter had gone the way of the Dodo bird, who was going to set type? Why typists of course, trouble was they knew nothing about the letters themselves, just the keyboards. Designers had to step into the breech and specify how and what to set. They began to be system integrators, cobbling early software together in an effort to set type faster, incorporate basic design elements, and rudimentary layout. The call went out to do more and faster. Those that couldn’t adapt to the new paradigm were invited to seek employment elsewhere.

Continue reading


What if we graphic designers get everything we want?

I recently read an interesting article on the Core77 website. Apparently, folks in the business community are starting to “get it” when it comes to the business benefits of design!

Increased competition in the industry, improvements in the global technology infrastructure, relentless pressure to lower costs in every industry are just a few of the forces leading a major shift in the field of design. Where earlier, design was the department brought in after marketing or sales or the advertising agency decided that a “new and improved” product or brand extension was required to penetrate a target market or increase profits for a brand. This usually resulted in incremental improvements in product and profits. Notes Sharon Reier in her article When looks count the most, companies are now increasingly seeking to integrate design as a strategic tool for creating shareholder value. These companies understand that the real value in design is using it to improve the entire user experience, where advertising specialists and marketing managers focus more on the buying decision alone.

Continue reading

Standards are coming!

An ad hoc committee has been formed as the result of many conversations on the Graphic Design forum. The goal of this committee will be (a) to form a working draft that outlines a unified code of ethics for professional graphic designers and (b) attempt to gain some measure of popular support as well as uniform adoption by the various leading GD organizations.Currently, the GAG, AIGA and other GD organizations in the U.S. have their own standards of professional practice. There should be only one set.We will, of course, be using this space to help promote awareness of whatever the result of the unified standards ends up being. Hopefully this will launch a discussion that leads to an industry-wide set of professional standards. Of course, this is a moving target but perhaps this first step toward unifying standards is, as Churchill would say, “the end of the beginning”..chris{}

Where is the bar in Graphic Design?

In a recent discussion on the Graphic Design discussion board, we were discussing the current state of GD education, it was mentioned that part of the problem with injecting more business knowledge into the GD curriculum in design schools is that GD curricula are ALL over the place. There is no standard as to what graphic design students should know after 4 years and tens of thousands of dollars.What constitutes a professional graphic designer?Part of the reason for this is the fact that there is no standard as to what constitutes a professional graphic designer. What’s the minimum level of knowledge or competency that a professional graphic designer should have before being able to reasonably call themselves a professional graphic designer?

Continue reading

The GD Business model. Time for a new one?

The other day I was talking to a couple of designers and we brought up as a topic of conversation the existing GD business model.Now I’m no MBA and certainly am not qualified to design new business models but I think it’s a fair question, for which there may or may not be an answer, as to whether or not the GD business model should be revised or changed?The old GD business models were as follows:The old print GD business model:Before the computer came along and turned it on it’s ear, this model was a very profitable one for graphic designers. Trained graphic designers were the only people who had the expertise to prepare ideas and designs for the arcane and complex offset printing process. Once ideas were finalized, they would create mechanicals which made the artwork “camera-ready” and marked those mechanicals with very specific printing instructions. Designers retained mechanicals from design projects unless clients paid large sums of money (I’ve seen as much as $5,000 for a set of mechanicals) to purchase them.

Continue reading


Change is always tough and the Graphic Design Industry has a tougher time dealing with change than perhaps most professions.Our industry’s history of slow reaction to changeThe desktop publishing revolution was particularly painful for our industry. We failed to see the writing on the wall, reacted to late, and many design professionals found themselves unemployable because they lacked even the most basic computer skills. Typesetters, comp artists, production people and a whole host of other professionals related to the industry went completely the way of the Dodo bird over night.

Continue reading

Branding in Action

Ask a dozen designers, “What is branding?” and you’ll undoubtedly get twelve completely different answers. It’s a buzzword that we use (or overuse?) when we argue how valuable we are to the business world. Afterall, how can a company establish, modify or reinforce their brand without design? We talk about how design shapes customer attitudes – but do we really understand the full meaning of brand?It’s a useful exercise to consider what I am about to tell you, so please do your best to suspend disbelief.There is more to branding than design. And realizing this might just help your own brand.

Continue reading