The role, which the designer plays in modern society, is essential in how we understand our own lives. The importance of design as an activity can be observed from different angles, one being designs capacity to shift the economical situation of businesses; another being its omnipresence in the objects and images which sustain our cultural existence.
On the other hand, design is important because it awakens the interests of a great number of students, workers and those in other sectors of society.
Despite this, the full magnitude of design as a discipline remains undervalued and misrecognized.
How can it be that design is left so underappreciated? Why doesn’t design get the credit it deserves?
Perhaps it is because the majority of designers don’t know how to talk the talk…
The fact is that most designers are not specialists in written or verbal communication, they are not journalists, or writers—they are individuals who have chosen to express themselves in a visual rather than a written or verbal form. In other words, designers are more often than not mute.
Why have our designers chosen silence over recognition? I don’t really know, but each of us has must have our reasons. That which is clear, however; is that each designer has redefined his or her own anonymity with the capacity to communicate through other resources, such as the images and objects of his or her own creation.
In this fashion, the graphic designer has replaced combining words with constructing images: images that tell a story, reconstruct and synthesize real-life situations.
These images differentiate and integrate visual representations, thus mobilizing the spectator and stimulating them to desire something.
For their part, industrial designers do not vocalize their authorship either, instead they put their energies towards interpreting new social interactions, creating new relations between people and materials, and incorporating these ideas into objects and designs that will become a part of the future users’ lives.
The designer’s labor is certainly praiseworthy. Unfortunately, by definition, designers are anonymous—constantly substituting words with other means of communication, and thus limiting themselves to their principal activity, which is design.
We see the proof of this everyday, for example:
When somebody other than the designer explains the creativity of a visual campaign or product.
When a furniture designer remains anonymous when he or she has created a piece, which affects the daily lives of millions.
When entire generations accept the most established of brands as organically emerging and not the products of talented individuals hard work.
When designers’ salaries remain substantially lower on an international level than many other professions of equal or lesser value.
When who designed something as common as the national currency, flag, or emblem is not public knowledge. When the story of both the designer and the design somehow become a product of everyone and no one.
Let’s look at one case in particular: Can anyone tell me who designed the first coin or emblem of his or her country? The answer to this question tends to be vague theory or a bad guess at best.
Yet the blame lies not with the general public but within the limitations of the designers themselves. Our inability to use the existing means of communication to publicly stake claim to our work.
We sustain from words, when it is words, which fill public space, which define and give meaning to public debate, which interpret and define roles; when it is words, which ultimately define reality.
So what do we as designers loose when we don’t speak up? Sadly, a great deal:
That design is valued; that our discipline is understood; that our sincerity, professional commitment and solutions to social demands are recognized—That is surely worth talking about. Isn’t it?
© Sebastián Guerrini, 2010