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Popular Lies About Graphic Design

I’ve been reading Popular Lies About Graphic Design, by Craig Ward.

The book’s described as “an attempt to debunk the various misconceptions, half truths and, in some cases, outright lies which permeate the industry of design.”

It’s excellent, mainly for Craig’s opinions, but also for the visuals he uses to express them.

Graphic design is easy

“When a headline or piece of communication is presented in such a way that you can’t imagine it ever looking any other way; when you can’t pick a hole in the kerning of a single pair of letters; when you are struck between the eyes by a treatment so perfect that it seems almost familiar, and the elegant colourway and choice of typeface is pitch perfect… That is effortless design. To the casual observer, it may look like a simple task — and the tools we use are getting better and better (and making us lazier and lazier). For the rest of us, we have to work at it. We have to squint at the screen and stay up late. Walk away from it for days at a time, come back to it, start again, change things up, throw it away and try different typefaces in various combinations before finally — often begrudgingly — sending the work to print. Shaking our head as the file uploads wondering if there were something we could have done for it to be better.”

More visuals are shown on Behance.

Publisher Actar told me that although the book’s currently sold out, it’ll probably be reprinted, and at the time of writing you can still buy copies here:

on Amazon.com
on Amazon.co.uk

Craig Ward is a British designer and typographer based in New York. On Twitter here.

You’ll find a short interview with him over on Thrash Lab (from October 2012).

Other recommended reads.

My second book on Amazon

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13 comments about “Popular Lies About Graphic Design”

  1. It’s like anything – the best always make it look easy. Tiger Woods makes golf look easy, Hollywood makes acting look easy. Thanks for the post, might have to check this one out.

  2. Managed to snag a copy on Amazon! Thanks for the recommendation, David, I look forward to the read and visual stimuli (that Behance gallery is great).

  3. One of the things that people say that bugs me the most if “well, anyone can just open up Photoshop and do a logo”. Yes, just like anyone can nail a few tiles to a roof.

    People haven’t got a clue. This book looks entertaining!

  4. I’ll definitely have to snatch me up a copy of this. I hate when someone who thinks designing is easy which is clearly the opposite and requires much more then just drawing and using a computer.

  5. Sounds great! Looking forward to having a read of this.

  6. Dang, more books to buy! Took a look at the link there, like the bit on Comic Sans not being the worst font ever – although it is pretty terrible most of the time.

  7. Have to agree with Chris B. Experts in any field make it look like a cake walk. Until you begin to explore the design process and watch a master of this skill at work you really don’t appreciate the hard work that goes into something as seemingly simple as a logo.

    Will have to check this book out too.

  8. I find that with Graphic Design, it’s easy to do “good” work but hard to do “great” work but not many people outside of our own peers really care to see “great” work so most of the stuff out there is “good” giving people the impression that it’s easy.

    The difficulty of Graphic Design depends deeply on what sort of work you put out and in most cases, yes, it is easy. It’s very easy.

  9. Being a police officer is hard. Being a first grade teacher in an overflowing classroom is hard. Being a soldier under fire is hard. Being a social worker and dealing with abused kids is hard. Being a judge and contemplating sending some to prison for 30 years is hard. Graphic design work? Not so much.

    That doesn’t mean we don’t struggle and pull out hair out and work our butts off. But so what? So does everyone who has a job they care about. The difference is we have the chance to do something we love, something that is creative, something that will be seen by hundred or thousands or millions of people. When you tell someone you’re a graphic designer, do it with a smile. You’ll never score points with the public by telling them how hard it is to be you.

  10. @Maurice and @Lawrence, so then we should just sit back and let the general audience continue to build their misinformed assumptions and views of us? The term “graphic designer” is laughed at as a profession by a very ignorant society, WORLD-WIDE. “What’s so hard about making a logo, it’s just a picture and some words?” Could you imagine the “looks” the same half-wit would get if he looked at a completed surgery and exclaimed “What’s so hard it’s just a scratch and some stitches?”?!

    Both of your comments definitely have validity, don’t get me wrong, we are extremely lucky to be able to make a living doing something we love. And yes, it may come easy to us at times thanks to our continued practice. However, earning that living is made increasingly difficult by the ignorant mind-set that permeates society about our profession. You don’t think that has an effect on younger designers already insecure about asserting themselves?

    Sure, the successful amongst us have it good, but we’ve also likely learned to start practically every new job by educating the client first. The fact remains, you would never hear an aunt refer to her nephew as a surgeon because he likes to cut up stuffed animals in the backyard in his spare time. There’s no chance she’d recommend him to someone in need of surgery. By comparison, how many times does our entire profession get weighed against someone with an illegal copy of Photoshop who calls himself a “Graphic Designer” because he dicks around on the computer as hobby? That is why books and discussions like this are important, they reach beyond our immediate community. Shrug them off at the expense of your peers.

  11. Chris, I appreciate your point of view and I agree with you that we need to educate the community. I just don’t agree with the approach of talking about how difficult the job is and complaining about the amateur with “the illegal copy of Photoshop” who call himself a designer because he “dicks around on his computer.” I don’t think a defensive, self-important approach wins hearts or minds.

    Last fall, I spent a week at a photography workshop taught by some incredible professional photographers. These people had been published in places like National Geographic, but never condescended to us or told us we should leave photography to the pros. Instead, they encouraged us and talked about their own process. It became very clear to us amateurs that there was a huge gap between those taking the workshop and those teaching it. The more we learned about photography, the more we appreciated how hard it was for the pros to accomplish what they did.

    Honestly, I like the people who “dick around” on their computers. I think that as more people try their hand at graphic design, more people will appreciate how difficult it is to do it well. And when it comes to clients, I prefer an approach that talks positively about what goes into the process (educating clients, as you mention) and letting them figure out for themselves that pros are worth the money.

    (And not for nothing, it doesn’t help to compare graphic design with surgery. A bad logo never killed anyone.)

  12. @Lawrence H – Ah, but a bad logo has killed many a business, so . . . ;) I used the surgery comparison to illustrate the ridiculousness of the “It’s just a picture and some words.” statement. Some professions get respect regardless of what people know about their intricacies. No one on the face of the earth would ever mutter the words “What’s the big deal, it’s just a scratch and some stitches.” to a surgeon, realizing there’s much, much more to the process. But, that poses the question: Why, then, do so many people make such uninformed assumptions about our profession and insult our abilities, often to our faces?

    By no means am I trying to be self-righeous here, nor am I complaining or intentionally condescending, I’m just asking questions and pointing out truisms while attempting to support the topic of this blog which has been taken a bit out of context, it seems. As stated above, the book is “an attempt to debunk the various misconceptions, half truths and, in some cases, outright lies which permeate the industry of design.” It isn’t saying that design is “hard” and I don’t detect an arrogant or “complain-y” vibe. “Design is easy” is most definitely a VERY common misconception. Period. If anything, the excerpt is describing our perfectionist tendencies and our reluctance to let go of our “babies”, always wondering if we could’ve done better. It’s letting the average viewer know that there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes and beneath the surface than they may realize, that good designers don’t just slap stuff together and leave it at that . . . even though we could probably get away with it, it’s just not our M.O. I definitely do not think it’s describing anything negative as you elude to and it’s most certainly not saying anything about leaving design ONLY to the PROs, and neither am I.

    Look, I count my lucky stars to be fortunate enough to work with clients and companies who hire me specifically for my ability. I do, however, still commiserate with those who aren’t so lucky and who have to defend their skill set on a regular basis, often trying to educate someone who prefers their own ignorance over sound input. I’ve been there, we’ve all been there. It’s frustrating to have built a superior skill set, and often paid for an education, only to feel like you’re constantly being pitted against people who are not competitors in any way. If I come across as a little defensive, it’s because I think it’s important that younger designers who read this blog know that we’ve been there too, that we’re here to help them, and that they don’t have to pander to that crowd.

    And for the record, I was once a musician who “dicked around” on the computer in order to create fliers and merch for our shows. In doing so I reconnected with an artistic side I had been nurturing since childhood and “found something” I loved doing as much as making music. It led me on the path of self discovery, art school, and lead me to where I am today. I would be a hypocrite to trash anyone nurturing that same desire. I am strictly speaking to the overall ignorance of someone who thinks their 10 year old nephew is just as qualified to handle a design as a skilled designer with years of experience to back him up. I’m also speaking to those who call themselves “designers” but have no real desire for the craft other than to make, or attempt to make, money by ripping off and stealing from other designers.

    Sorry for the novella, hope it helps clear the air. ;) Great point about the workshop.

  13. Really interesting book.
    Love the insights, the layout, the graphics.

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