Throughout my research for the MA assignment I begun to consider the definition of graphic design. The Oxford English Dictionary describes graphic design as;

The art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books.1

– Oxford English Dictionary

Graphic design is a form of visual communication, its realm and scope succinctly explained within the following short film by Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel.

Graphic design is the most ubiquitous of all the arts.

– Jessica Helfand

Helfand, J. and Drenttel, W., n.d. Graphic Design Is. [online] Available at: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrlZDMdDEu0> [Accessed 9th December 2011].

As explained within the AIGA guide, “What is Graphic Design” the graphic designer organises the three elements; typography, image and ‘white’ space to communicate the intended message.2

However, with the increasing availability of ‘design’ software, it brings to question the importance and place of the graphic designer, leading to the current topic of debate; the DIY Designer.

Eva., 2006. Ellen Lupton: Design It Yourself. [electronic print] Available at: <http://www.mediabistro.com/unbeige/files/original/diy.jpg&gt; [Accessed 9th December 2011].

Many graphic designers feared the introduction Desktop Publishing would destroy the profession of graphic design. There are two opposing viewpoints in the DIY Debate, those cherishing it, claiming it removes the elitism from the discipline and making it accessible meanwhile others feel that DIY design has “saturated the market with ineffective and misguided design produced by people with little or no education in graphic design”.3

Advocates for the DIY Movement include Ellen Lupton. Within an article for the AIGA she opposes Steven Heller to outline the benefits of DIY Design and the possibilities it brings.4 I agree with her statement that the launch of desktop publishing has left everyone with a better understanding of graphic design, and therefore appreciation for the complexity of some of the work we produce.

Desktop publishing didn’t wipe out graphic design; in fact, the field got bigger, in part because the general public had gained a better understanding of design by working with tools similar to those we were using. People became more educated about design by playing around (and working) with fonts and computers.5

However I can also see the truth in Heller’s opposing argument, that by unleashing the ability to create ‘design’ to all we risk losing our professional status and therefore our credibility.

. . . I recoil when I think of mediocre designers “doing it themselves.” People should not think they are Designers because they can fiddle with type on a computer template. If people start thinking that graphic design is as easy as One, Two, Three, it will diminish designers’ authority and clients’ respect.6

Already with the wide availability of software to the general public I have noticed a change. Where before it would be necessary to see a project to print, clients are asking for the working files to ‘tweak’ things themselves. Now this leaves an awkward situation for the designer. I am a perfectionist, and the thought of handing over the working files to an amateur fills me with fear! What are they going to do to it? And will they still put my name on it afterwards; do I want to be associated with whatever they have created after it has left my hands? Owning a copy of Adobe does not make you a designer, anymore than owning a plane makes you a pilot.

And its true, since the launch of Desktop Publishing, there has been an vast increase poor design largely distributed. But pre-recession, it could have been argued that by giving unfulfilling tasks to an under-skilled amateur simply allowed better designers freedom to work on better projects. However, now jobs are tight, and highly skilled design graduates are fighting for places designing in chain print shops I believe it is time for DIY Design to stop and the economy relating to our fragile discipline boosted.

1. Oxford Dictionary, 2011. Oxford English Dictionary. London: Oxford University Press.

2. Poggenpohl, S. H., 1993. What is Graphic Design. AIGA [online] Available at: <http://www.aiga.org/guide-whatisgraphicdesign/> [Accessed 9th December 2011].

3. Anon, n.d. The Macintosh Computer. [online] Available at: <http://www.designishistory.com/1980/the-macintosh/> [Accessed 9th December 2011].

4. Lupton, E., 2006. The D.I.Y. Debate. AIGA [online] Available at: <http://www.aiga.org/the-diy-debate/> [Accessed 9th December 2011].

5. Lupton, E., 2006. The D.I.Y. Debate. AIGA [online] Available at: <http://www.aiga.org/the-diy-debate/> [Accessed 9th December 2011].

6. Heller, S., cited in Lupton, E., 2006. The D.I.Y. Debate. AIGA [online] Available at: <http://www.aiga.org/the-diy-debate/> [Accessed 9th December 2011].

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