Design certification is a highly-polarizing topic. The simple mention of it ensures for an avid and energetic discussion. Yet, certification is highly misunderstood and generally confused with terms like accreditation and licensing. Many professional fields are certified. Medicine, law, engineering and accounting quickly come to mind.
Within the 5 mayor design fields (industrial, engineering, architecture, graphic, interior), graphic design remains as the only field in the USA with no system of requirements, standards or benchmarks to follow. Many countries have already adopted strict certification systems for their respective design populations, combining requirements that ensure professional excellence and accountability within all practitioners.
I am proposing a flexible system of requirements built on inclusivity, not exclusion. It will be structured to meet the different backgrounds, experiences and educational formation of designers. The framework will foster professional development, encourage higher education and reinforce the unity between practitioners, while boosting Design’s presence within the public and private sectors.
The Designer with a capital “D” should be:
Not every well known designer has a formal education and in many cases self-taught designers are equally competent. Nonetheless, education is at the core of tackling the problems and challenges of our ever-changing world. A formal design education combines theory, history and design engaged with sociology, anthropology and the environment. Design should not be driven by aesthetics, but by a deep understanding of design principles, its history and the evolving practices and methodologies of our field.
Practical experience marks the real learning experience in the life of the designer. The demands of the industry, the economy, politics and clients are just some of the considerations that affect Design as a whole. The combination of a education and a thorough working experience transforms the technically-savvy graphic designer into a responsible, well-rounded and critical-thinking creature: the Communications Designer.
Designers need to embrace ethical practices and transparency in every facet of our work; from establishing an open dialogue with the client to fighting against harmful practices like spec-work and unscrupulous crowd-sourcing contests. Our work must be committed to engaging a problem and providing an appropriate solution for the client and society as a whole.
A designer should be committed to his or her work, industry and the profession as a whole. Our individual actions and working relationships should all be guided by honesty, ethics and respect. Active participation within established organizations is vital for developing strong links between designers across the nation.
Design is a never-ending journey. We must meet the changing technological and social demands by a participating in ongoing education courses, lectures, conferences and activities that provide strength, unity and continuity to our profession. Designing is a marathon not a sprint.