The Toilet, the Title and the Graphic Designer

Written by Rosie Munro
 July 2019

There’s more to graphic design than just graphics and design.

I can’t remember why I was talking to a complete stranger in the ladies’ toilets, but I do remember that this woman made me feel…well, frustrated.

I was queuing for the ladies (typical), when the woman next to me started up a friendly chat to pass the time and distract from our engorged bladders.

“What do you do?” she says.

“I’m a graphic designer” says I.

“Oh, you must be good at drawing…”

Aargh! She’d instantly pigeonholed me into something that didn’t reflect my job at all. And it’s something I hear all too often.

A graphic designer’s skillset goes much deeper than just drawing pictures; some can’t draw or even need to. If your main focus is drawing, you’re probably an illustrator, and that’s quite different, thank you very much!

Back in the loo, my overly polite British self didn’t correct the woman, I just did an awkward laugh and agreed with her. Looking back, I can’t really blame her for not knowing what a graphic designer did, I didn’t know either when I applied to do it at University.

We don’t need no education

In the final months of my art foundation course, one of my lecturers called Sarah… Sarah… can’t-remember-her-last-name said to me, “Your work’s quite ‘graphic designer-y’.”

To which I responded, “What’s graphic design?”

I still didn’t really understand what it was when I applied for it at uni, but I was running out of time, and had to choose something to study.

So maybe it’s not just Loo-lady. Maybe the world isn’t educated about what graphic designers actually do. And maybe this is to do with how the job has evolved in the Digital Age.

What’s in a label?

There are so many titles for us designers these days, and it can be tricky to know how to label yourself. Graphic Designer, Visual Designer, Digital Designer, UX/UI Designer, Web Designer, App Designer, and even Visual Communicator (isn’t that a Mime?).

It’s all a bit confusing and often hard to commit to being just one. Our designers at Dauntless wear a multitude of hats, including UX/UI design, branding, animation or print design. 

Print designers are what most people think of when the term ‘Graphic Designer’ comes up. They unsurprisingly specialise in designing for tangible, printed media, such as magazines, flyers, posters, stationery, point of sale, packaging, etc.

Identity and branding designers, are probably the next go-to generalisation when you think ‘Graphic Design’. These are the creatives who would fit easily into the Mad Men mould, without necessarily the drinking, smoking and womanising. They specialise in the visual language and presence of a company, so logos, uniforms, livery, that sort of thing.

Now, in our age of ones and zeroes, we have website and app designers. Self-explanatory? But then you also have user experience/user interface designers (UI/UX). These clever peeps think about how a person will use their digital designs, and the journey they’ll go on. It’s about flowing through the experience naturally from start to finish. At no point is the user aware that someone has purposefully laid out all the steps they have just taken, they just did it and it was easy. Job done.

So if ‘Graphic Designer’ isn’t as clear-cut a job as say, ‘Dog Walker’, I should probably cut Loo-lady a break.

There’s no ‘i’ in ‘team’, but four in ‘multidisciplinary’

At Dauntless, we’re fortunate to have all our design bases covered. We boast a multidisciplinary skillset that makes us such a strong, well-rounded team. Having strengths in different areas means we can approach challenges from all angles.

Our titles may not fully cover all that we do, but equally they do not limit us either. We don’t really ‘draw’ (that’s an illustrator, remember), but we do create beauty and meaning and emotion. It’s up to us designers to explain our profession better and share our excitement in all that we do.

So thank you, Loo-lady, for making me re-examine the profession I take for granted. And thank you, Sarah Whatever-your-name-was for pushing me into a career that I now love. Maybe I should make an effort to find out your surname.

To find out more about design and the many other disciplines we proudly wave about the place, get in touch with Rosie and the team.

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