Rock Star Graphic Designers Anonymous

There are two graphic designers in particular who set me off on this path I now call my career. They both completely nuked my existence while simultaneously teaching me a phrase — graphic design — and then showing me how many different ways one could break apart and manipulate what that phrase meant both personally and professionally. One of these designers has continued on this path of restless discovery and constant re-invention while the other seems to have settled very much into what you could call a “classical” mode in that he basically churns out the same look and feel no matter the client.

The anonymity of graphic designers is absolutely fundamental to the service of a client. Without the client, the designer’s work is art or expression or hobby or creativity but it’s not graphic design.

We live, however, in the age of the rock star designer. Among other rock star upgrades to once humble professions like bartender, chef, and reality show moron.

To be fair, I feel that most of these celebrity pixel pushers are true Commercial Graphics masters in the sense that they imbue their client’s needs with their own problem-solving talents. There are however, the few, the proud, the rotten apples who cash check after check for receipt of their cookie-cutter style while dropping lip service references to storytelling and concept. All to justify the fact that their agency is nothing more than a one-trick pony, albeit a trick that is in vogue and that everyone is willing to pay through the nose for.

This is a homogenized travesty and one that will taint any honor or sense of duty we may have found over the years in the graphic arts.

Most of these so called rockstar designers seem to get it. Meaning firstly, they serve the client and secondly, they serve the client with their well-honed problem solving skills, not their trick bag of sloppy, faux-handmade type or naive pretensions about where their actual talents lie.

Basically, if I look at five different projects by the same designer, shouldn’t they all exhibit the traits of the client and their needs and not the style of the designer? At the very least they should be indicative of a healthy collaboration with that client’s needs.

If one trick ponies become too popular I suppose the endgame is that the waves of imitators eventually drown them out as their style becomes commonplace and easily recreated. By then though, the offending “designer” will have already cashed in his chips and split for the coast. Leaving the rest of us to endure carbon copies of their carbon copy’s copies.

It’s really as simple as doing an image search of each designer’s work and comparing them side by side. One is a beautiful tangle of different colors, textures, and type treatments; all dependent on the needs of the creative brief. The other? they all look like sketches for the same project even though they are from twelve different ones.

So this student hasn’t exactly become the master but I have figured out that one of my masters is a false prophet.

Bert BacchusComment