A Designers Thoughts On ‘Design’

We often find it hard to categorise, or explain succinctly what Design really is. I believe this is because Design sits in too many categories to have its own simple understanding.

Design sits part way between engineering and art, between logic and opinion, between structure and chaos. We really only have one word to describe what we do, simply ‘Design’. The Dutch have two words, Vormgeving and Ontwerpen. The former, vormgeving meaning something more akin to image making, you know, the part that makes things look nice… the later ontwerpen being closer to what we might consider engineering, or the structure of a thing.

To me there is a clear distinction between vormgeving and ontwerpen. Ontwerpen is design. Vormgeving is image making, not design. To make an image is not equal to design. Just as, to turn on a tap is not equal to plumbing. Or, to cut open a frog is not equal to surgery.

This brings me to Canva… Canva is an image making platform. Let’s put aside the bullshit and see it for what it truly is, a simplified image making platform on the back of a large content library. It is a hammer, and maybe a nail. With it I will not be a builder, but I sure can ‘bash something out’ in the hope that it might look ok.

I’m not saying the service of Canva is bad, I actually think it’s quite a good service. Provide an easy to use product, that helps a user perform an action without being intrusive or cumbersome. It honestly seems like a viable service. I am saying the positioning is bad. More specifically the marketing language chosen.

If you use Canva, having no previous design experience, you are not a designer, in any way, shape, or form!

You have just become, like every other human in the world has the capacity of being/already is, an image maker. You went ahead and made yourself an image, good job. This is not design. The fact that people think this is what can pass as ‘design’ sucks… It kind of  makes the time and effort I have put into being a designer less valuable… or at least less perceived value. But worse than the fact that people think it, is the fact that Canva is using that thought to make money. That’s the kicker, that’s the moment it stops being a joke, or a non-issue.

“Canva has re-imagined a world where design is simple, and every idea can be beautifully presented in print or online,” – Canva CEO Melanie Perkins

Stop a designer on the street and ask them if their job is easy, better yet imply that their job is easy and wait for them to punch you in the face. This is getting dumb…

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