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19 Popular Misconceptions About Graphic Design That Need To Die

by . November 20th, 2015

Hard lead pencils

Graphic designers are a “whiney, entitled, overpaid bunch.”

Here are other things most of them aren’t.


19.) Graphic designers charge too much.


If anything, the opposite would be true for most designers. Most people do not really get to see the time it takes to get decent, thought-out design out there. They rarely if ever know how many times that toothpaste logo or that beer label needs to be revised and redone before it hits the market.

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As a general rule, most newbie graphic designers are probably paid a little less than they should be, and the ones who stick with it a couple of years are paid fair market rates. However this isn’t a unique problem and you can see this issue in all creative fields.

Much of this misconception is probably thanks to the next one.


18.) It’s an easy job.


It’s about as easy as any other job– which is to say it isn’t if you want to make a living out of it. It’s not rocket science, but it’s definitely something you will lose plenty of sleep over.

Graphic design work isn’t just about drawing or laying out stuff you like. You are solving a problem, and much of the work lies in understanding what needs to be done to do that.

In between understanding a problem and solving it, you have to deal with people who may not be able to understand the problem themselves and hold you responsible when you’re not able to deliver. The fun never ends.


17.) All graphic designers make big money.


We get this a lot for some reason. I’d blame Hollywood, but not even the following video seems to show that.

Yeah, there are designers that make a mint, but these are a select few who’ve invested their lives into it. The fact you can have nearly everything done on Fiverr and that nearly every other business owner seems to get their logos done for peanuts should be enough to put this to rest.


16.) Designers whine too much.


I know, right? But believe me, it’s not really that much more than other creatives.

Graphic designers however, are in a relatively unique place thanks to the boom in web design in the past two decades. The necessary skills and what employers believe to be necessary skills  are divergent and have been constantly evolving, often independent of each other.

What gets you hired one year won’t be as useful the next year, and so on. Plus the fact you can’t really distill what a graphic design job entails in one sentence makes it difficult to express what it means to people outside the industry. This makes for some very legitimate gripes.


15.) The internet is all you need.


Online resources may suffice for many situations, but for many if not most career designers, there’s no substitute for real books, sketchpads, Sharpies, bar napkins, poster paints, rulers, and other “real world” items, especially for quickly hashing out initial ideas.

The internet is also of limited utility for parts of the design process that require more personal interaction. Not only are communications issues bound to happen, professional advancement can be stunted if you conduct all business online.

Telecommuters for example, might find it harder to advance professionally compared to a counterpart that works in-house. Team members who get face time tend to advance faster just by being there — regardless of actual productivity.

Likewise, freelancers who do not get to meet their clients in person are far less likely to be treated like a real person, for much the same reason we are meaner to people online than we are with others in the real world.


14.) There are no rules.


Totally untrue. Artists arguably have no rules, but designers are constrained by them. It’s part of the job.

First, there can be no “design” unless there is a specific problem to solve. Second, any creative brief worth following is basically nothing more than a bunch of rules and parameters a designer is meant to follow.

Even with the leeway given within a creative brief, designers are still answerable to technical specs and limits, general design principles, as well as culture-specific boundaries, regardless of whether or not they choose to follow them.


13.) All you need is a degree.


While useful, degrees are far less important than experience and a developed portfolio. Arguably, degrees are even less important than professional connections.

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This however, doesn’t mean there are no advantages to earning a degree. A good graphic design school will help you learn how systems work, as opposed to the narrow day-to-day graphic design tasks anyone with a pirated copy of the Abode Creative Suite can do.

Let’s put it this way: a graphic designer who’s only great at CS, or at programming may not always find their specific skills useful. Their skills are specific to a narrow field. A graphic designer with guts and a better grasp of entire systems however will never find themselves out of a job. They will always be able to survive somehow, regardless of the technologies needed.


12.) Freelancing is the best way to earn a living.


This is definitely not true for the many successful designers who’ve found success as part of an agency, or as in-house specialists.

Also what does best way to earn a living even mean? How much do you value company-sponsored insurance, regular incomes, paid leaves, or paying taxes?

To add to this, not every good graphic designer necessarily has a 100% commitment to the field, and they might enjoy a lifestyle where they need not necessarily put 100% of themselves into design — which is what a freelancer often needs to do. What’s best for them will be different for someone else.

However there definitely are places especially in the developing world where in-house and agency graphic designers may not have access to compensation packages that are competitive on a global standard. In these cases, yes — maybe you should be freelancing.


11.) Self-employment is easy


It’s never easy. Doesn’t matter what field it is.


10.) Designers do the same kinds of work.


You wouldn’t ask an ophthalmologist to give you dental braces, yet many wouldn’t think twice about asking an industrial designer to create a logo, or a fashion designer to create jewelry.

There’s plenty of overlap, sure. But that doesn’t mean designers can do everything.


9.) It’s plagiarizers all the way.


This one’s tough. While there are guidelines on what constitutes theft and plagiarism, many consider a mere passing resemblance enough to warrant accusations of “intellectual property theft”, or “rip offs”.

If this is what you mean by plagiarizing, then sure — we’re all ripping other designers off.

But the truth is no one’s design chops are ever built in a vacuum.

We all stand on the shoulders of giants, and it’s OK to be influenced by other people. Before you accuse someone of plagiarism just because a design has some passing similarity to something else, ask yourself if you haven’t done the same and written it off as merely “inspired” by something else.


8.) Certification is required.


The plain truth is few people value graphic designers enough to care about degrees– let alone certification.

Yeah, it helps but isn’t a “requirement”, exactly.

Should it be? Please feel free to share your thoughts on this in the comments as we’d also love to know.


7.) Graphic designers are great with computers. Put them on tech support.


The mere fact someone works with a computer is often enough for the less technically adept to mistake them for some technowizard.

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This is a far less common misconception than it used to be, thankfully. If you did graphic design work with computers in the 90’s it was inevitable one of your relatives will ask you to look at their computer over Thanksgiving dinner.


6.) Work is everywhere.


Mmmk. No.

Depending on what specific skills you have, work may or may not be readily available for you. As it is, there in currently a continuing boom in graphic design demand, and consequently as the bar towards entry seems low enough, there are also plenty of graphic designers of varying quality waiting to fill that need.

Not only is there plenty of competition, not all clients will have an idea of what exactly is needed to make something happen, so the wrong kind of people fill posts all the time.

So work might be technically everywhere, but the jobs that are actually worthwhile, and therefore actually count, are not so easy to get.


5.) Good design should be timeless.


“Good design” is bound by the constraints of its purpose, as well as of the prevailing norms of the time it was made. Some designs look less dated than others, but that normally is just a function of us getting used to them.

Some designers may find the Coca-cola logo dated, or see Helvetica and instantly think of the 60’s and 70’s. The only factor that keeps a design “timeless” is consensus, and that can change, just like anything.


4.) “Best possible” designs are absolute.


This is rarely true unless the design requirements are unusually narrow. In most cases, there is an infinitely variable range of workable solutions — especially when you’re discussing something as subjective as visual design.


3.) Logos = Brands


Graphic designers are partly to blame for being sloppy with terminology, but no, logos =/= brands.

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Logos are a narrow visual aspect of what comprises a brand. What constitutes a brand can involves all the senses and so much more. Brands are more about ideas, as we’ll find out in #1.

Also, please don’t be pedantic with non-industry types. It’s not good manners.


2.) Minimalism and Helvetica are the best!


Are they? How would you propose to stand out from everyone else to who’s done them to death? In any case, get over it.

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“The classics” work most of the time because they are safe. But unless the environment you work in is in some sort of bubble, they won’t help you stand out. Yes, safe is good, but being safe isn’t everything.


1.) Design is all visual.


In normal day-to-day conversation, yeah — “design” can refer to visuals. Don’t chew anyone’s behind over it if they’re not into design.

But in a professional context there’s definitely a a heck of a lot more to design than most laymen realize.

Graphic design is mostly visual. But “design” also encompasses sounds, smells, textures, flavors, ideas, associations, experiences, myths, and too many other things to mention.


By the way, we didn’t make any of these up. We’ve actually taken a few of these from post comments on this site and on YouTheDesigner’s Facebook page. Others we found in Quora’s graphic design discussions. Some are from Clients from Hell. Others may or may not have been gripes by some of the other writers.

All images via Creative Commons licenses, Death To The Stock Photo, and Imgur


More:

11 Things That Don’t Mean Good Design

20 Ways To Drive Graphic Designers Mad


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.

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