The questions that haunt me as a designer -1-

03 September, 2011 § 2

I’ve decided to add this new section to the blog to spark more discussions about what we do as designers and how we affect the world. So read below and let’s chat!

1: Do we design for the people or for peers?

It’s true, whenever we get a new project, our first step is to look closer into the target market and dedicate ourselves into luring it.

But I always find myself wondering whether people are really affected by the visual aesthetics of what we do. Do our efforts really matter? When your target market is as specific as an age group, you know your energy is not wasted, because it’s clear that kids will respond to more colors and cartoons and exclamation marks! But when the service/product you’re designing serves a broader audience, can you be sure of how sensitive these people are to design?

This question is most present when I see a poorly designed product/service doing wonders numbers wise. The people didn’t care about the visual brand but rather about what it really offers. And that’s fine by me! That’s even, ethically speaking, quite the perfect thing to happen. But it saddens me because it makes me all the more aware that I stress for nothing.

And on the other hand, one has to admit, that through the course of creating a brand, we designers are not only concerned with building loyalty to the brand but most importantly concerned with how it will look in our portfolios and how it will measure up to the work of designer peers.

In the race between form and function, functionality is always a priority both to the designer and the client. Functionality serves the people without their knowing, magazines made more entertaining to read, health brochures made more easy to understand, paper work made less painful to fill out. But when it comes to the form, nothing is certain.

What makes it even harder is that once you’re a designer you can never claim to be in a non-designer’s shoes. Texts you read will always be about kerning and leading before meaning.

So designers, do you fall into the designing for peers issue too? Would you risk your portfolio over a client’s needs or would you rather risk the success of a brand over peer recognition?

And people, how sensitive do you think you are to design? When you’re standing in front of a supermarket shelf do you pick one product over the other because of the way it looks? Is visual experience a factor when you choose a restaurant?

What's this?

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§ 2 Response to “The questions that haunt me as a designer -1-”

  • Nancy Karam says:

    : ) here it comes, my favorite discussion!
    To start with, I believe all people are sensitive to design one way or another. We all have a sense of what's beautiful, appealing, inviting, yummy... whether we all agree on the same parameters is a different issue. And the same applies to the so called creative elite - we all consider ourselves well educated & informed in the visual communication, and without a doubt feel unquestionably hip and drop dead stylish; yet, we all secretly critisis each other constantly from every angle possible and not every single one of us would hang a Picasso painting in their room. So there's no arguing with taste. to us it is as puzzling that a poorly designed brand is appealing to the public, as it is to mom that I paint my nails black.
    As for the second part, to me it has always been pretty simple. Designers are not artists. We work for people who want to sell their stuff - and yes that's the real deal, and there's no point making what we do any sexier. So our job is to do that the smartest way possible so that at the end of the day the guy paying your salary is happy because your efforts resulted in a 20% sales increase and you are happy because you helped him do that with style - don't underestimate the difficulty of this equation. Whether this effort lands in your portfolio or not is not as important. What you should be proud of, is that at the end of the day you have what it takes to pull a stray cat out of a garbage bin and turn it into a
    glorious lion - don't underestimate the power of that either. We have THE power and even if we get the chance to actually use it for a noble cause at least once in our lifetime, it's worth all the tomato paste and hamburgers we help sell.
    And last but not least, when we get caught up in competion we lose the point of absolutely everything in life. So let's worry less about how good my work is compared to others and focus more on, how does it really make me feel?

  • Nsrn Srks says:

    nancy! i see you've been giving this quite a thought! :) I love your sense of logic and your comment kinda seals the discussion!

    It's true that all people are sensitive to design in one way or another, but are their reactions exactly what you want them to be? (I always think about conducting a survey about this).

    And yea you're right, designers can be quite the stuckups! We all think we know it all. And what's up with the criticism? I can't see what's wrong with appreciating someone else's work!

    I think it's all about the designer's personal priorities as a human being rather than just a professional. Some of us are in it for the fame, others for change and others for the mere fun of it. I have to admit that I do have a competitive edge but you're right, I should focus more on how I feel, because the competition just makes me feel like shit! :)

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