What if, through a very simple action, we could collectively impact the recognition of design? We think that design does not get the credit it deserves. Part of the reason for this is that design rarely gets credited at all.
Do you know who designed the clothes you are wearing? The phone in your pocket? The train you rode to work on? Probably not. You don't know this because design is invisible. Rarely will you be aware of design until it goes wrong. We are starting a campaign to make design visible. We are asking design clients to credit their designers and designers to do their part in convincing their clients that credit is fair and right and can be beneficial to them. We are asking designers to advocate for credit. If not for themselves, for the advancement of the design profession. We are asking them to do this on principle to set a new standard. To add clauses in their contracts and enforce them. Companies can join in on this campaign too. Name your designers. Include your design team members on credits for their work. Show the world that you know the value of the design that has gone into your products.
MAKING DESIGN VISIBLE
Most people instinctively know when something is well-designed. They simply feel better in well-designed environments. They take pleasure in a comfortable chair. They enjoy their navigation experience if the site they go on — to pay their taxes or check out the exhibition in their local museum — is clear and well thought out. They feel better in clothes that fit well and feel good to the touch. But they are often completely unaware of the design-ing that has gone into their experiences. And because of this design is undervalued by most people.
We are taught that good design should be invisible, friction-free, imperceptible for its cleverness. There is a logic to this. We design to make people's lives easier. To simplify transactions. To facilitate flows of people and necessary interactions. Through things like way-finding and user experience design, we guide people through environments. With graphic design, we help them navigate and prioritize information. Through industrial design, we build tools to navigate life: computers, phones, scissors, lights, coffee makers and subway cars. When these are well done, our lives become easier. We can scan information and navigate complex environments. And, as the complexity increases, we count on these things to be able to manage daily life. So when they fail, we are outraged. But when they succeed, we consider this as the way things should be, without thought to the skill of the design teams that have been improving all these systems at leaps and bounds for many decades.
Good design, when it's done well, becomes invisible. It's only when it's done poorly that we notice it. Think of it like a room's air conditioning. We only notice it when it's too hot, too cold, making too much noise, or the unit is dripping on us. (Jared Spool)
But this leaves design with an image problem. When we fail — through our bad choices or someone else's poor implementation — we are at fault. But when we succeed, and we do succeed well and often, we are invisible. Our impacts on the things and spaces around us are attributed to good planning, luck, or simply not noticed at all. This is an important failure. Because it leaves most designers in position to have to convince their clients not only that they are the best designer for the job but that the design is necessary at all. It means that we — as an industry — have difficulty getting a seat at the table. We struggle to communicate our value to industry, to government and to ordinary people. This translates into a lack of political capital.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
While good design should not be visible by its performance, we should get into the habit of talking about the design-ing and the designers involved in the creation of the designs that surround us. And a good place to start is to credit the work that is being done.
A post by VOGUE Scandinavia crediting those that worked on the image
Other creative industries have been very good about advocating for their right to be acknowledged. On social media, most serious posts will now include a credit for the photographer, the stylist, the make-up and hair professionals, but rarely the designer, unless it is a brand. This is because these form a part of standard contracts. In order to be respected, these professionals ensure that they receive not only payment for their work but a public acknowledgement that it is theirs. This is of course of personal benefit to the professional in question but also it legitimises their craft by making it more visible. This is a matter of custom and negotiation. In these industries, there are often agents that represent their clients and advocate on their behalf. But there is no reason why photography would be credited but design would not. The simple, practical reason is that designers as a whole are less prone to ask for the credit in the first place. We do not have the professional instinct to enforce this contractually or the custom of requesting it at all.
TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE!
We are challenging designers to fight to get their work credited. We are challenging companies to credit the designers that have worked on their products. We are challenging everybody who has a website to credit the designers that worked on it (you will notice that we credit ours on the footer of every page). Get the word out! Tell your friends! Talk about it at association meetings and design conferences! Designers, we challenge you:
add a clause to your contract: stipulate that your work will be clearly credited and state that you retain the right to take credit for your work publicly!
educate your clients: there are benefits to companies to show off the good design they are putting out (we have a few below)!
call out uncredited work, yours and that of others: tag us @theicod and use #campaignforcredit and we will share your posts!
discuss this issue with other designers: share this campaign within your communities, get the word out!
advocate and teach that crediting is professional practice: educate your students and mentees that it is a point of professional practice to advocate for the crediting of their work!
WHY COMPANIES SHOULD WANT TO CREDIT DESIGNERS
It makes you look good. It is professional to give credit. Serious companies are consistent in crediting who they work with because they work with professionals and because they have brands of a value that they would like to protect from lawsuits. It is the smaller and less professional brands that tend to forgo this, either because they are not working with creative professionals of the calibre that demand it or because they do not have the legal teams to advise them to protect themselves. Even if your company is not that large and will likely not be sued, putting yourself in a category that holds these high standards, reflects well on your company's integrity and professionalism.
It makes your products look good. There is a reason that luxury goods companies often do credit their designers, and very publicly. There is a reason why luxury goods companies often do credit their designers, and very publicly. Or why Apple does and Dell does not. Products that are designed, especially by good designers, are simply better. If a company cares enough to hire a designer or team to improve their products or services, it will show. And including this information in your marketing materials will position you as a company that cares about design.
It makes your designer look good. And this will end up reflecting well on you and your brand. Do you work with a good designer? Is it well-known that they are a good designer? Maybe not yet, but the more that their work is appreciated and recognised, the more that studio or designer will develop brand recognition. And then your company is marketing products designed by a sought-after designer. It is a win all around.
It is the right thing to do. A part of being ethical is to compensate adequately. That means paying your workers a fair wage and giving them proper working conditions. And it means adequately compensating those creative professionals that provide services. Adequate compensation is more than simply paying their invoices, it means giving them the credit for the work they have done and allowing them to use the work for their portfolios.