OpEd: What Makes a Good Designer?

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this lately. Perused the design blogs, the design portfolios online looking for the answer to the question, what makes a good designer. What makes a great designer? I have come to the conclusion that the majority of designers are good, few are great. I’m not saying that I’m a great designer, or you need to be a great designer to see who isn’t. It’s merely the social order of things. Everyone can’t be great, if they all are great, then there is nothing bad; we have no way to judge good design from bad. Good design, not great. Yes, most designers are “good.” Every once in a while do designers make great designs, but for the most part, they are just good, average, adept. This by no means is not a bad thing, these are the designers that help make the world go round. The cooks in the kitchen if you will. It is also important to realize that probably 25% of designers are not good, 74% of designers are good and 1% of designers are great. I have noticed there are ways to judge this, judging through aptitude, passion, integration and evolutionary insight. Let me explain…

Aptitude
Strictly speaking, this level of critique is based solely upon education of whatever sort in the field of design. Gestalt, color theory, history, form and function. This proves to be the foundation of design and the designer. Lack of knowledge in this department is noticed quite readily in the designs. Red serif type on Black provides an immediate conclusion. Granted, some argue that design is visceral. It can be, yes. But, only after a designer has learned the basics of design, can the designer be adept at designing intuitively. Most designers have this already under their belt and from a foundation standpoint, helps make them a good designer.

Passion
Design is an art. Art requires passion. If a designer doesn’t have passion for their work, or at least passion for the ideal of design, then they’re in trouble. Enough said on that.

Integration
To judge a design and thusly the designer, an integration of aptitude, passion and solution of design must be presented. Taking the knowledge of design, applying it to the job or project with a passion is how we work. This is where most designers are in the world. If the designer can integrate everything they have and know into their designs and overall thought process while maintaing a passion for what they do, most likely you will find good design coming out of it.

Evolutionary Insight
This is the the precipice of designers. These designers incorporate Aptitude, Passion, Integration along with something else. That spark. That whole understanding of how things work now and how they will work a year from now. They are the trend makers and the elite. These designers are the ones that set the standard for the good designers. Example: The web2.0 look or the reflection look, each were most likely thought of by one designer. One. Now, it is such a trend that everyone is doing it. Most likely they have moved onto something else that we as good designers will see in a year. These designers have that insight into the evolution and trends. They know what will work. They are the top 1% of designers in the world.

It is important to understand that my intention is not to insult the average designer, nor interrupt their dreams. It’s the whole notion that we all can be president. In truth, we all can’t be. There are limitations in life. We can strive to become that top 1%, but it takes time, talent, passion and drive. Not all of us can be the pacesetters. There is NOTHING wrong with being good. In fact, there is everything right about being good. Good designers are hard to come by. Also, like I mentioned before, good designers are those who make the world work. I would love to be great. I strive for it. I know my place too, I’m a good designer.

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