Designer vs. Someone-who-can-do-design

There are many, many designers. But we have good, bad and even ugly designs. Why is that?

There must be many reasons for this and we can find the reasons from education, industry, culture, client-designer relationships,. and roles of designers and others. But most importantly, it comes from the fact that not all ‘designers’ are designers. So the question what makes ‘designers’ designers comes in.

I am not a pianist and I have never practiced to become one. Imagine one day I wanted to play some songs on piano. Then I would take some piano classes and learn basic keyboard skills and practice few songs that I always wanted to play. I may become good at playing those songs and even become able to play them in front of few of my friends. Have I become a pianist? I think not. If I practice more to become more confident and play in front of audiences, am I a pianist then? May be not yet. When I become very good at piano mechanically, I may become a good piano player. But may not be a pianist, yet. So the question is, what makes a pianist and a piano player?

Let’s take another example. I am not a medical doctor and never trained to be one. But I know somethings that can fix some troubles. If I want to learn more, I can gain more knowledge and can become better. I may be able to help my friends and they may trust me as someone-who-can-do-some-medical-treatment. But it will make me neither a medical doctor nor a nurse.

Similar question can be applied to designers. When someone have design skills, capable to use design tools, and do ‘design thinking’, is this person a designer? Or just a ‘design doer’ or ‘design thinker’? In design education, most of the curriculum goes into teaching of skills and delivering knowledge to make design does and design thinkers. Those who don’t have good skills can do design these days with aid from computer technology. But I think not all of them turn into designers. If most do become designers, there should be much better designs everywhere and we must have been living in must better world.
We need designers. We need good ones, really good ones. Let’s talk about what makes good designers not merely someone-who-can-do-design.

©Sooshin Choi

2 thoughts on “Designer vs. Someone-who-can-do-design

  1. Hello Professor,
    I agree with you sir, but I have another opinion. So, first of all I want to give a similar question “How can designers be called as desginers?”

    In my Opinion, there is a good example like Pablo Picasso.

    Firstly, he is known as a Abstract painter ( I don’t know how is he be known as but at least in Korea), but almost his famous works these days are so-called Cubism. But almost people overlook this point that he could paint classical style well, when he was only 14 years old. When I was young, I’ve thought once that, even I can paint like that. But this thought doesn’t make sense. Because even if I try to paint like that, actually it’s not only hard to use oli paint, but a lot of technics are in his works.

    Secondly, it seems to me that ,in artistic field, to become famous, having background is essential. We can call that ‘Career’. I think, without that, nobody can get the recognition.
    Therefore, to be good designer, we must make something before, that can be highly estimated.

    So in conclution, what I’ve found is that we all need to be well known in order to get value be recognized. If I give a concrete example, to be a Maestro of Chopin, it’s needed to win in the Chopin competition before. Likewise to be good Designer, we have to make something brand new before we design something simple that people can think it easy to design.

    About this problem ‘which Design can be called good Design’ I want to give it to next commenter!

    Thanks for your reading,
    Sewon Lee


    • Thanks for the feedback and a question. Here is what I think.

      Picasso is an artist with no doubt. He indeed is a perfect example for my argument! The paintings from his younger era are excellent and he possessed a flawless technique. But that alone didn’t make him an artist we know him as because there are many who have great mechanical skills. When he had a question about the gap between three dimensional objects and two dimensional canvas and found his own way to do it, Picasso as we know was born. Besides his skills, he has his unique philosophy about things that we see and things that we can draw. I believe that is what made Picasso an artist who we won’t forget.

      Monet, known for his Impressionism, is an artist with no reservation. He was even rejected by community because his intention and philosophy were so unique. What made him an artist is his effort putting impressions, not just what is seen, on canvas.

      ‘Becoming famous,’ ‘career,’ and ‘getting recognition’ are the result of who we are and what we do. If a designer has a unique philosophy, approach, and style that make the designer set apart from others. And if the results are accepted by many, then the designer may become famous and recognized. Often, designers work in incognito (for example, I am not known as a designer of Kia Sephia to the public) so may not be recognized. But if the designs reflect the designer’s philosophy, approach, and style, the designs may become known and famous.

      ‘Career’ is developed when we continue improving ourselves, I believe. Hope this helps!


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