Why being called a designer doesn’t make sense anymore

I have been reading a lot of articles around creativity and design, passions and interests. This made me think about my job title and my interests. Are my interests aligned with my job title? Am I passionate about being a designer?  All my adult life I have been a design advocate. However, my conclusion after my reads, is how little what we call things matter. At work today, a certain collegue was outlining how many different type of architects there were in the room, starting with content, information and technical, not to talk about the architect who wasn’t in the room – the one who builds buildings.

Design is such a loaded word that I doubt that it means anything. As Jack Schulze says in this very awesome article – “Some people (they are wrong) say design is about solving problems. Obviously designers do solve problems, but then so do dentists.” Since I have been calling myself a designer for a really long time, this comes as a relief. I don’t want to be a designer anymore, I just want to do my thing. Titles are over-rated, and unfortunately jobs get created around useless titles and vice versa. Is it the naming convention happy society that wants to silo everything and create such demarcations. As we try to create more roles and more titles, the problems around us get diluted. Being a designer doesn’t mean anything, nor does being an architect mean anything. One could have made an argument around being able to sketch or think in an organized manner but that doesn’t hold true any more either. What does hold true when talking about ones creative leanings, I think is personal interests and passion. Darren Aronofsky once said that making a movie was 95% management and 5% creativity. He makes films that people like, he is not necessarily a manager, he is a film maker. His interests lie in making good films and not in managing projects but managing projects are an important part of making good stuff. Which brings me to the point that even though my title has been that of a designer for most of my adult life, I have sketched a lot, outputted a lot of documentation and dealt with a lot bureaucracy and not necessarily produced a lot of design that people have actively used. I have filled titles which necessarily haven’t been my interests.

Also, certain kinds of designs have nothing to do with my motivations and my interests. Craptastic words like design thinking and innovation make it even more difficult to call oneself a designer.  I think all of us need to take a piece of paper and write down the correlation between what they are interested in, what their title is and what they do. If those three things don’t really match up, its time to give yourself a new title, a title that matches up with what you want to do next – Storyteller is a good one and so is Urbanist. Atleast those terms outline your interests and then you can expand your thinking to make them more tactical and build something interesting people would use. Design is a verb now. Calling myself a designer feels misleading even if it comes with a prefix (interaction and such). I might like creating interactions for mobile phones that help people create good habits but might hate to create a financial analytic tool because I don’t care about what people do with their finances. What kind of interaction designer does that make me then? Not a very good one.

Its time to bid adieu to just being called a designer or more precisely an interaction designer. Its time to embrace interests, passions and all the work being done in relation to our creative pursuits.

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