The question of “What is Graphic Design” is probably asked every day, somewhere. There is even a book with the same title. I think of this question everytime somebody asks me what I do for a living, and it can be sometimes complicated trying to explain not just what a designer does, but also their role within the economy.
A suitable, and perhaps a surprising comparison I came to was that graphic design is very much like being a comedian. I don’t mean telling dirty jokes and playing the bongos, I’m referring to knowing your target audeince & working with them through good communication to get a result you are both happy with.
Continuing this analogy further, I decided that there are two main types of designer. First you have the stand-up comics. These are the guys with a lot of experience, know exactly what their doing, brimming with confidence and ready to design for any audience they come across. A good comedian will be well prepared, having done plenty of research to tailor jokes for the audience, or in the design industry, the client. If the gig is at a Women’s Convention, chances are any sexist jokes will be saved for another date, in the same way a good designer should design for the tastes of the target audience.
Like designers, comedians also feed upon feedback to improve their work. A good comic will tell a joke and gauge the reaction of the audience, if they don’t laugh he or she will move onto to something else he has in mind, but if they do laugh then the comedian knows they are on the right track. This is similar to why good communication before any creative work begins is essential to a successful design solution.
While still classed as comedians, Jester’s are less successful than their stand-up peers. A jester will run on stage with no preparation, juggling, telling all the wrong jokes, desperately seeking a rise from the audience. Almost like when a designer does no preparation or research when starting a design project, chances are the client will boo them stage. The problem with jesters are that they don’t know when to stop, a bit like designers who haven’t read the brief, talked at length about the clients needs and are constantly baffled when their designs get rejected.
At the end of the act the jester is left frustrated, angry and disullisioned with his or her profession until the next job comes along. Like a successful comedian, one of the main attributes of a good designer is being able to communicate by listening as well speaking. If a client doesn’t like the design it is more than likely the fault of the designer than the client. In other words it is our role to make the client laugh, but with us, not at us.