January 4, 2013


Are you qualified to be a designer? These folks want to tell you.

The controversial subject of designer certification has raised its ugly head once again. If this doesn't scare the heck out of you, nothing will.

"Not every well known designer has a formal education. Nonetheless, education is at the core of tackling the problems and challenges of our ever-changing world. A formal design education combines theory, history and design engaged with sociology, anthropology and the environment. Design should not be driven by aesthetics, but by a deep understanding of design principles, its history and the evolving practices and methodologies of our field."

That is the first of five proposed edicts that would earn you a capital "D" in your "Designer" title. A campaign christened as CertifyD proposed by Esteban PĂ©rez-Hemminger at Pratt Institute.

Ironically, the first sentence points to the primary problem with entire argument: "...Education is at the core of tackling the problems and challenges of our ever-changing world."

First, no it is not. Formal education is certainly one way of learning some aspects of the design but it is by no means "at the core" of it. And the very nature of that statement demonstrates the obvious problem with certification: As soon as you allow someone to define what a designer is and does, you narrow the scope of those possibilites.

What the author has not yet discovered is that design is opinion, not a structured, hierarchal reality that can be articulated like algebra or law. Whether a particular designer is qualified to tackle a particular project — for a particular client, in a specific market, at a particular time — is easy to determine. The designer shows what they have done for others in the past and proposes what it is they can do for the new client in the present.

If proponents of certification think they can somehow insert themselves into that process and substantively improve the outcome by certifying the designer they are simply opening the door to corrupt the most rigorous of standards: the meeting, the portfolio, and the brief.


The edicts...

A video of the event: Designers are obsolete...

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