Times change. And it changes brutally fast.
At the rate of yesterday’s knowledge becoming irrelevant and impending possibilities of more jobs and services becoming automated, it begs the question that in this day and age what does having certification mean for a designer?


Design critic Corin Hughes-Stanton once suggested that “design will become more aesthetically adventurous”, and I do not see why it should be any different for design education. Subjectively, certification for designers is unnecessary, because as overused it may be, eagerness for good design and the catalyst of passionate learning will forever be the imperative factors. The contrast between the two is that while the latter pushes developmental skills (self-taught) and design inquisitiveness, the former primes the graduate for the industry ahead — an odd logic seeing that certification has little significance on creative hiring. Furthermore, you will never find designers flaunting their certifications in front of their Portfolio Night booths.


Although the road in self-taught design may be less travelled, it is these experimentations that make lessons better learnt through experience; a common trait many designers can attest to. It is as what Ira Glass of the radio and television show This American Life says about how people succeed in creative work, “You’ve just gotta fight your way through”. And fighting through, are what self-taught designers like David Carson and the late Tibor Kalman used to do.


Millennials are brought up to think certifications are articles of guaranteed career security, progress and assurance, and it is much more apparent in Asia. This is superficial thinking, because schools exist for two reasons: self-discovery and progress. It is a shame that most students think learning stops as soon as a grade is given, an abhorrent academic condition where certification is a substitute for evidence of real and tangible progress.


That is where the openness of the World Wide Web comes in, which has to a greater extent become the bigger enabler for designers everywhere to easily learn. While the hindsight is that it marginalises designers’ expertise into software anyone can easily pick up on their own, it places increased emphasis onto creative perseverance (of grit and determination) by pushing designers to achieve more outside the computer screen. Our clients, often design-untrained, are more inclined to work relating to the “real world” than work from classrooms and as far as I can tell, the hook, line and sinker for client and creative hiring should still unquestionably be real commercial, regardless of the credentials.


The design practice has come a long way, and what is of immediate importance to our trade and us right now is the need to distinguish ourselves from mere applications. We think critically, applications do not. With self-learning becoming the more viable way to flexibly grasp and interpret the advances in design, the millennial designer can détourne technology and its information obsoleteness back to advantage, towards a designer job posting that does not say:


“No experience required.”


The article was first published in The Design Society Journal Issue #7 • Context

Neville Hew
Neville is a designer working with brands.
Neville Hew
Neville Hew

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