What makes a good designer in 2021?

Purple 18 Aug 2021
3 mins

It’s not enough to be a graphic designer who only knows print or digital design anymore. In fact, you could say even the term ‘graphic designer’ is obsolete. A designer must know all the disciplines of design, from print and digital, to video and animation – and all of these to a high level if they want to thrive in the creative industry.

Traditional print design is still relevant as the fundamental basis of a designer’s knowledge and skill, even if it’s something they may not use anymore. There is no room for error in print; you can’t just undo or revisit a design once printed without incurring further costs. An error found after a design has been printed could cost a designer their reputation, perhaps even their career.

In the digital world meanwhile, things are a bit easier to correct and re-deliver, sometimes before they’re even noticed.

The evolution of design

Designers have evolved over the last decade, bringing with them a new set of skills, including user interface (UI) design, and user experience (UX) design. In this ever-developing world of design, a good designer must keep abreast of new technologies – not just creative trends – to stay relevant.

It’s an exciting prospect to see what skills are to be added and whether there is a limit to what a designer can take on solely on their own. Will the skills needed become too much for one person? Will we revert to separate skill sets for each design discipline? Or will the likes of Adobe keep creating and developing software to keep up with the single designer model? Will the vintage designer be the one-trick pony who only has one or two design disciplines – or will they be the holders of the tried and tested knowledge that modern multi-disciplined designers lack?

One thing is for sure, the more a designer must learn, the less of a master they become!

So, if the nature of design has changed, with a designer having a variety of disciplines, what makes a good designer? What do you look for when hiring someone – a Jack of all trades, or someone with discrete mastery in some?

How do you know you’ve chosen the right designer to get the creativity you need? Chances are, what you think you want, you don’t. And no, if you want a good response to your design, you can’t go online and design it yourself. You may think it looks great, but the rest of the world probably won’t, leaving you and your company on the back foot.

Being a creative communicator

When all is said and done, design is about effective communication.

To get what you need (which is not necessarily what you want), you need a creative communicator, someone with the creative experience to understand what will work best rather than just produce what you think will work best!.

So I would argue that we are now in the era of the communication designer, rather than the graphic designer. Great communication is bolstered by great design, and for that you need someone who understands how best to bring their creative experience to bear on a communications challenge.


About the author

As Purple’s Studio Manager, James uses his strong project management skills to control workflow for our busy Design & Digital team. An experienced designer in his own right, James has worked in agencies throughout the UK and more recently in Perth, servicing clients such as American Express, British Airways, Apple, MGM Studios and Saab.

He has a strong background in branding and brand development, helping lift the profile and market presence of clients across a range of industries, including the tech, travel, retail and motoring sectors.

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