Our field has long since addressed the obvious and contradictory dilemma of designer as author, and for good reason. In many ways, I think this idea of humility for many designers, in seeing themselves as servants, is precisely what has always kept us on the sidelines of more broad-based cultural recognition—compared to, for example, architects and artists, whose authorship has never been in question, indeed, it is arguably the centerpiece of those practices. Some of us, in graphic design, have argued that the promise and presence of a larger body of critical writing focused on our field could form an antidote to this state of affairs, which is fine, but I would posit that graphic designers need to balance their traditional humility with a touch of well-deserved arrogance. We are no longer so-called (and derisively mentioned), commercial artists, therefore somehow forfeiting the right to authorship because work is commissioned, nor should we necessarily hide behind self-published or self-commissioned work as a way to claim authorship as a whole. Indeed, we compete with each other for new work precisely within this orientation, that we are different from them.
A student of mine once put it very well, if you give twenty designers a brief, you will receive twenty different solutions. And would we want it any other way? We are individuals, we have our own voices and there is no arrogance in such a claim, indeed, in claiming authorship we can also be humble in that we accept responsibility for what we create, and stand by it as experts, as devotees, as impassioned creators of form. I’ve written elsewhere that as graphic designers, “we too long for some recognition of our idiosyncrasy, our individual being in the world. We seek undiscovered paths amidst established and well-trodden byways, we seek to send our voices through messages that are not necessarily our own. This can be a frustrating existence, especially when one is refuted by the pressures of the world, of convention, of precedent, of the same.”1