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The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Design Now

The Inquisition aka Ronan McDonnell

This opinion-based piece is a stark departure from normal Inquisition service. Please forgive this infringement – the navel-gazing pedantry will return in due course.

Allow me first to introduce myself and (momentarily at least) unmask The Inquisition. I realise this is a trepidatious move, unparalleled in modern times since The Bike Snob NYC revealed himself, the eponymous blogger of Belle de Jour did likewise or perhaps even since Ricky Martin astonished the world by revealing his masculine predilections. My name is Ronan McDonnell and I am a graphic designer in Dublin, Ireland.

I am revealing this as I wish to describe issues of subjectivity in graphic design practice, in an equally subjective manner. That’s a fancy pants way of saying I intend to talk shit about work.

Why is it that the most interesting design work is either rejected or a vanity project?

The people commissioning work don’t have a background in design as a discipline. They are usually just ordinary joe soaps. These are also often marketing people.

Do marketing colleges teach design? If they do at all, they may cover it as a topic, teaching it as more of a technology than a skill or intelligence.

Taking it that your client is some run of the mill marketing lackey, why is it that they are not getting and using your best work? Interpersonal skills are a fundamental in doing effective business and are not even considering in art college. How can you sell an idea if you can’t build up a rapport? If you can’t develop a trust? If you can’t clearly explain your ideas?

In essence, selling.

Design is about why and how you arrived at a solution, what it will do for your client, why you feel it is the right solution. Its about moving forward, being progressive and driving things on. You will never convince a client of this by visuals alone, they have to buy into you, not just your work.

The herd mentality. Maybe clients don’t want to leave their comfort zone. They just want to follow along. Of course, there is no harm in that – design should always look like, and be part of, its time. Thats what it is – the business of communicating (other people’s products and ideas). But is this really the best you can offer?

Digitisation. With computers omnipresent in the workplace, at home, in your pocket etc it is felt by potential clients, this is something I can do myself, or pay little Johnny down the road to do. You don’t need a degree to do a logo, when all you need is a clipart figure and your title in some crazy font. They now feel that in the digital age anything is possible, roles have mutated and they should have an input as valid as any.

But there is no deeper background to this approach, no theory, no heritage, no understanding of the wider picture. This is indicative of the approach “I can get something generic easily. What does it matter its only design”. This ends with us being surrounded by indistinguishable visual clutter.Bad design reflects poorly on whoever is associated with it. Remember, as a client good design may not win you work, but bad design will lose you business.

But things are going to change. Once again you will need to stand out as either designer or client. Either way you will need the experience, skill and vision of a good designer. Its just up to each and every designer to show why that is them.

This article was posted by on Friday, April 30th, 2010 at 02:26.
It is archived in Design and tagged , , , , , , .

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