Designers, “Hacks” and Professionalism: Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?

“The need is constant. The gratification is instant.” That’s from the American Red Cross, and it was copy that I plugged into a poster for a blood drive at a comics convention. Sitting beside an image of the sexy and well-endowed Vampirella, the words took on a different meaning. Oops!

But I was struck by how these words are a perfect assessment of our society. We want it all, instantly and as cheap as possible. We are a Walmart culture. Fast and cheap have entered our every pore and changed our society, our lives and our livelihoods. Compounding our daily worries and pressures, we now fight to keep our industry professional and profitable. Clients want our blood for free, and the “hacks” are designing us out of existence.

Most people blame the laptop and easy-to-use software. Many blame art schools for favoring quantity over quality. Can any of these be blamed merely for doing business? If someone who has no idea what they’re doing wants to purchase a computer and a slew of graphics software and call themselves a designer, then they’re in business.

Beard in Designers, Hacks and Professionalism: Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?
All you need is a computer, software and beard and you are an ARTIST!.. Right?

Should we call this “competing in the marketplace” or just “giving it away… and eroding respect for what we do in the process”?

Every freelancer who has dared to provide an actual estimate for their work has heard in reply, “I can get it done cheaper.” And the client can. The job, which requires thousands to be done properly, can be delivered for hundreds, and its horridness would never be noticed by the client. They will not notice the lack of a return on their investment or the consumers avoiding their service or the people making sport of their new logo online. And if they do — which would likely happen after they’ve gone out of business for making all the wrong, cheap decisions — they will blame graphic designers. All of us.

When a staff designer makes a blunder — even if only a perceived one — all designers need to have a watchful eye. We are the weird kids, the ones who drew pictures in math class while the kids who became marketing directors and account managers told on us. Yes, we need watching.

If you ever wondered how the practice of presenting several ideas in a meeting gained such a foothold in our business, just imagine some of the incompetents in the Floogelbinders Guild in the 7th century who really screwed up and codified the practice… before their heads were chopped off and their limbs burned. Ah, the good ol’ days, when they really knew how to maintain professionalism.

[Offtopic: by the way, did you know that we are publishing a Smashing eBook Series? The brand new eBook #3 is Mastering Photoshop For Web Design, written by our Photoshop-expert Thomas Giannattasio.]
What Exactly Is A “Hack”?


“The need is constant. The gratification is instant.” That’s from the American Red Cross, and it was copy that I plugged into a poster for a blood drive at a comics convention. Sitting beside an image of the sexy and well-endowed Vampirella, the words took on a different meaning. Oops!

But I was struck by how these words are a perfect assessment of our society. We want it all, instantly and as cheap as possible. We are a Walmart culture. Fast and cheap have entered our every pore and changed our society, our lives and our livelihoods. Compounding our daily worries and pressures, we now fight to keep our industry professional and profitable. Clients want our blood for free, and the “hacks” are designing us out of existence.

Most people blame the laptop and easy-to-use software. Many blame art schools for favoring quantity over quality. Can any of these be blamed merely for doing business? If someone who has no idea what they’re doing wants to purchase a computer and a slew of graphics software and call themselves a designer, then they’re in business.

Beard in Designers, Hacks and Professionalism: Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?
All you need is a computer, software and beard and you are an ARTIST!.. Right?

Should we call this “competing in the marketplace” or just “giving it away… and eroding respect for what we do in the process”?

Every freelancer who has dared to provide an actual estimate for their work has heard in reply, “I can get it done cheaper.” And the client can. The job, which requires thousands to be done properly, can be delivered for hundreds, and its horridness would never be noticed by the client. They will not notice the lack of a return on their investment or the consumers avoiding their service or the people making sport of their new logo online. And if they do — which would likely happen after they’ve gone out of business for making all the wrong, cheap decisions — they will blame graphic designers. All of us.

When a staff designer makes a blunder — even if only a perceived one — all designers need to have a watchful eye. We are the weird kids, the ones who drew pictures in math class while the kids who became marketing directors and account managers told on us. Yes, we need watching.

If you ever wondered how the practice of presenting several ideas in a meeting gained such a foothold in our business, just imagine some of the incompetents in the Floogelbinders Guild in the 7th century who really screwed up and codified the practice… before their heads were chopped off and their limbs burned. Ah, the good ol’ days, when they really knew how to maintain professionalism.

[Offtopic: by the way, did you know that we are publishing a Smashing eBook Series? The brand new eBook #3 is Mastering Photoshop For Web Design, written by our Photoshop-expert Thomas Giannattasio.]

What Exactly Is A “Hack”? Leer más “Designers, “Hacks” and Professionalism: Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?”