The Design Profession Needs Everyone Else To Raise the Bar

Note: This is Part 11 of the Ruminations for Aspiring Designers series.

Besides the self-indulging moment prisons, there are other things that haunt the design profession.

In a well-read article, Lisa Angela points out:

The design industry is a living paradox. By many measures, it is smugly self-satisfied and self-absorbed while simultaneously being full of some of the most talented and generous people you’ll ever meet. But self-awareness is not our strong suit. We ascribe our inability to get equal consideration in workplaces to external factors. We act as though we come to businesses all buttoned-up with strategically chosen professional methods and standardized workflows. And we all knowthat’s a lie. Name any other profession that could continually get away with the incredible inconsistencies in quality that we collectively generate.

However, there’s hope:

We’re uniquely positioned to create a better way. We have the ability to solve this. It’s not enough to just go on Facebook or Twitter and rant about what’s not working. We have to come to an industry-wide understanding of why these issues exist and commit to doing something about them.

And 7 issues were pointed out:

  1. Design educators and industry leaders have never reached a consensus about what comprises a “good enough” foundational education for digital design.
  2. We do not properly retire methods (or ways of conducting them) that have been shown to be ineffective.
  3. Design team seniority levels are meaningless.
  4. We’ve collectively lost the safety (and subsequently the desire) to explore and fail.
  5. We afford well-known design leaders too much power to dictate how design is discussed and conducted.
  6. We have no ethical standards.
  7. Inclusive design and accessibility are afterthoughts — both in design education and in practice.

You don’t even have to agree with those.

The takeaway is that, there are way more issues than you might think in the design profession. Or in any profession, to be honest.

You see – there’s really no need to pride yourself of anything as a designer.

What can we do, then, as designers?

My diagnosis is that elitism is everywhere (see issue #5 of the aforementioned 7 issues), and to move forward in a profession, we need to raise the bar for everyone else.

Just like everything else in life, the design profession doesn’t always change by itself.

Sometimes, it’s the change of everything else around it that propels its change.

In the design profession’s case, I’d say we need a lot more changes of everything else to really raise the bar for the profession.

Helping everyone better understand the design practice is every designer’s responsibility.

Are you prepared to explain good design and demonstrate its best practices to someone who doesn’t get it, won’t buy it, or is unwilling to support it?

Your “professional bar” – however raised – means nothing if you don’t raise the bottom line.


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