Earlier this month I came across what I thought was the most pathetic thing I’ve ever read, but I should have known better. Today I came across this quote from the designer, Neville Brody:
An electrician isn’t an opinion former, but a graphic designer is. My argument is that all graphic designers hold high levels of responsibility in society. We take invisible ideas and make them tangible. That’s our job.
Brody is naive, condescending and promotes an attitude that results in inferior design. To say an electrician (or anyone) is not “an opinion former” shows how little Brody knows about people and life outside of design.
Anyone can form opinions, hold conversations and persuade people to change their points of view. Such abilities are not owned by graphic designers, art directors, copywriters or anyone else who works in design, advertising or any form of media.
To think as Brody does is to belittle the opinions of the very people we seek to communicate with. What kind of design would Brody create to connect with electricians? Probably something that neither resonates nor inspires.
And for Brody to insist that all graphic designers hold high levels of responsibility in society ignores the fact that most design is superficial, interchangeable prettifying and rarely results in anyone getting electrocuted. And by “electrocuted,” I mean getting jolted by a design that transforms how people see the world.
Don’t just look at award show annuals. Go online. Flip through a magazine. Watch a video. Look at a catalog. Examine the packaging at the supermarket. Check your email. Open your junk mail. I’m not picking just on designers. Like most design, most copy is just as banal. Have you read all the Your pre-approved for a <insert bank name here> Visa/Master-/Amex card letters that inundate your mailbox?
I enjoy collaborating with art directors and other people in advertising and design and I enjoy creating work that helps clients improve their business, but I think electricians, school bus drivers and brain surgeons hold higher levels of responsibility in society than graphic designers, art directors or copywriters. What do you think?