Definition of Designer
What exactly is a designer? It’s a question designer’s are often asked. How do you answer? How do you explain a field that few understand and that is so varied in scope that it’s hard to pin down a single definition? Here are a few thoughts on the definition of a designer from AIGA to Uncle Sam…
Promoting a new standard definition for “designer”
AIGA testified this month before the commission on redefining the standard occupational classifications for “designer” used by the U.S. government in its economic research. This is another step in an effort that AIGA has pursued consistently for ten years. The occupational classification for designer is at least two decades old and captures the functions of a designer prior to the introduction of the Macintosh and securely anchored in the realm of commercial artist.
Stated definition: “Design or create graphics to meet specific commercial or promotional needs, such as packaging, displays, or logos. May use a variety of mediums to achieve artistic or decorative effects.” (Last updated in 2003).
Again from AIGA:
The U.S. Department of Labor’s contractor for the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), the government’s database on occupational characteristics, is conducting a survey to gain a sense of the relevance of the current definition. The survey will be sent to 80 opinion leaders within the profession, and their responses will govern the future definition. The definition is important to designers, since it governs both the literature about the profession that the government issues, but also influences the economic data collected about the profession.
Milton Glaser weighed in with a presentation at the AIGA conference, touching on on role and responsibilities as designers. I’m certain he wasn’t thinking of a definition the government would use in establishing criteria for economic data.
What is curious is that the US Department of Labor’s definition seems much more current on the Bureau of Labor statistics web site. It’s broad and inclusive and recognizes many aspects of what a graphic designer does.
All in all, it’s a great time in which to be a graphic designer. Don’t worry so much about your software skills. Instead, learn how to think. Then it won’t matter how you’re defined, you’ll know how to solve problems, and your clients will recognize that and value you for it.