Graphic Designers and Supposed Graphic Designers

I was reading a few essays at Speak Up, a graphic design community/publication, when I came across this essay (which was also published, in part, in inForm, AIGA Chicago’s Journal of Design), Is that a Graphic Designer with your Client, or are you just Happy to See me?

(go check it out, and read the comments as well… but read the rest of this as well)

ntrigued, as it deals with what exactly a graphic designer is, which is rather important in a period where everyone with Photoshop and a WYSIWYG HTML program refer to themselves as Graphic Designers. It also hits home, as I do not personally have a degree in Graphic Design, yet I consider myself a designer (at least to a certain extent… I still have much to learn). Granted, I’m also 23.

I come from a home where art was always extremely important. My mother was a painter (still is, actually, but she never has a chance to do it with the divorce proceedings) and my brothers, sister & I all managed to inherit good natural artistic tendencies. My oldest brother and my sister are both photographers, and my other brother has insane technical drawing/drafting skills (and I’d imagine he might have been a damn fine architect had he stayed in college). We always had great art tools, even though we didn’t always have heaps of money. I had my first rapideograph when I was 13. My first airbrush (now there’s a tool I never really mastered… ha… but that’s another story) at 14. I even had quality Exacto knives when I was a kid (yes, I know… great thing for a child… extremely sharp knives). I probably would have continued to focus on art and design all through my grade school days had it not been for those blasted computers. People found out I was good with them, and that was it (hell, I only found out I was good with them when we got our first PC – up until then we’d only had a black and white Mac Classic… for 7 years – when I was 16 or so). Everyone told me to focus on computers – That’s where the money is!

It took me a few years, but I realized that even though I was good with computers, I didn’t want to be a programmer or technician. I blame my mother. 😉 I inherited that damn artist’s mindset… well, to a certain extent (I’m still overtly analytical and I keep working on computers).

So, after a year of college (and two very weird years in Australia), I found myself without a major. To be honest, two years after returning to school, I still don’t have a major, but at least I know what I enjoy doing. I’ve spent most of the last two years honing my skills with “those new-fangled computer programs” that I just decried as the calling card of impostor designers (give me a little credit… I write my own code, and I think my parents had a “color theory / layout / proportion” microchip implanted in my brain at a young age), and trying to figure out how to turn 70+ credit hours into a feasible college degree. I’ve also spent much of my free time (and a small fortune) buying and reading as much as I can on design principles, as well as business principles. Sure I don’t have advanced Quark skills (give me time, though), I don’t have a degree from Art Center College in Pasadena (that’s just waaaaaaay too much money), but I live and breathe this stuff.

I guess I just sort of need a mentor… 😐