A Designer Situation

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Yi Luo

Abstract: Designers are first and foremost members of society, sharing the same concerns around education, finance, career prospects, social status, and self-fulfillment as any other practitioners. The creative and humanistic nature of designer roles, however, often places them in an inferior position in meritocratic, progressivist systems. In a total of three sections, designers are contextualized in a scape of lived experiences, anecdotal evidence, statistics, investigative reports, and theoretical resources, interwoven to picture a specific contemporary designer situation. The Human Capital discussed the systemic occupational discrimination against designers made visible and measurable by the US and Canadian immigration offices, attributing this phenomenon to the awkward classification of academic disciplines, the poor understanding of designer roles at the administrative level, and the skewed emphasis on solving hard technical problems. It was argued that said skewed emphasis can be traced back to the setup of goals and incentives in the existing educational institutions, overshadowing the value of designers’ ability to solve real-world problems and improve the wellbeing of many. The (Great) Expectations touched on the homogenous admission schemes in China and the profound implications of Eurocentric ideologies on Chinese design students’ choice of postgrad education. These factors, combined with the disproportionate expansion of design schools in the UK and the less-than-transparent rankings that favored British schools, gave birth to a tutoring industry that aims at sending Chinese design students to the UK for higher education. The discrepancy between the expectations from the education systems and the requirements from the job market, however, contributed to a new norm where graduates from prestigious programs overseas went back to the sector where they once received tutoring, instead of working as designers in the field. The Job raised personal observations and reflections on graphic design jobs. Juxtaposed with David Graeber’s bullshit jobs theory, the repetitive, substitutable, and nonautonomous aspects were brought up to question the meaningfulness and prospects of the very occupation, followed by a brief mention of emergent AI image generators both as opportunities to reduce workload and threats to the job security of graphic designers. Further, it was argued that because corporate design principles were postulated upon unsustainable business models, when designers are doing good in a contemporary corporate context, there is the danger of them causing more harm in the long run than their “average” counterparts. Stefan Sagmeister and Jaron Lanier were referenced to call for more justified specifications of “good design” versus “bad design”, as well as more subversive transformations of corporate design principles and know-hows. As a semi-open closing mark, opportunities for improvement and reframing of the afore-mentioned situation were identified to evoke further discussions on the very status of designers.

Keywords: Designers' Identity, Design Education, Design Pedagogy, Human Capital, Graphic Design, Design Evaluation

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003692

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