There are growing concerns about the level of professionalism in the graphics design industry. Ifeoluwa Sopeju raised concern about this, and I thought of adding my professional opinion. I teach Advertising professionals at the University of Greenwich, and I believe students should be prepared for what lies ahead in their industry.
For some background, Sopeju shared a website design promotion from N27,000 to N1,000; logo on mockup for only N300, and teaching 20 Digital Skills for N1,000. These people have been called quack designers who are causing damage to the design industry. While some people might be seen as haters for complaining about these promotions, it is essential to have a holistic understanding of the issues at stake.
Before proceeding, allow me to explore those who might be influenced by these promotions.
- The quack Teacher, who might have learned from another quack teacher, the person with no vast knowledge about design, trying to teach somebody else.
- The quack Student, who may want to be a quack teacher one day, who has not verified the level of knowledge and expertise of the quack teacher
- The quack Business owner, who may end up using the quack design from the quack designers.
These groups of individuals are not the focus of this article, but they are the motivation, and hopefully, they can be brought into the fold.
Importantly, we need to recognize the nature of the industry. The entry-level is low. Anyone with a Laptop and CorelDraw can claim to be a designer. The most professional course has a high entry-level, which makes it very much regulated. You can imagine how many years it takes to study Medicine, Law, or Architecture? These individuals invest lots of effort into their education development, and you can imagine why they make an effort to protect their profession.
Following on from the higher education requirement for a graphics designer, it is not surprising to know that the industry is not regulated, not recognized by the government, and even seldom recognized in the Nigerian higher education system. Therefore, the industry shouldn’t be compared with other professions because anyone with no formal education can be a graphics designer, while a formal education is not a prerequisite, it suggests the porous nature of the industry. You can not just claim to be a Doctor, without acquiring a formal degree
Thirdly, we need to recognize the economic situation of Nigeria, which has led to an increase in quack teachers trying to make money and quack business owners who are looking for cheap service. Understandably, these people will often want to go for the cheapest offer, even though it is not guaranteed that it is the best.
Fourth, quack can be a relative word. Creativity can also be relative; what you define as creative may not be creative to someone else. This subjective nature of art needs to be recognized as well, and it suggests why some people will not mind having anybody to design for them. They like what they see because they have not seen anything better or because that is the best they can imagine.
Following up on that, there are creative individuals as well who could offer a beautiful design at a very cheap rate. This suggests why companies like Wix are providing cloud-based web builders, allowing people to create a website using online drag and drop tools, Disha from Cregital allowing people to create a one-page site on their phone without paying thousands of dollars for professional website designers. No doubt some people will charge thousands of pounds, but there are people as well who can do it cheaper without compromising standards and quality.
Competition should be recognized in the market space. Many advertising agencies are complaining that freelance graphics designers are taking their jobs. These freelancers are doing so because they can save on the overhead cost of running an agency. Now, a sole proprietor who is a graphics designer can position their brand as an advertising agency even if they are not registered with Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), or Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (AAPN).
Opportunities and Future Plans
Moving forward, what can we do? We in the case, I mean professional graphics designers who are willing to make changes, improve the perception of the industry ad offer outstanding creative services to customers
Firstly, there should be a definition of a professional graphics designer. Would graphics designer be adopted as a generalized name or people wants to be a brand designer or UX designer? It is essential to know who is fighting this battle and who can be called upon. Would you expect those who already have advertising agencies to be part of the group? Or they will be part of AAAN?
Secondly, with the recognition of who a professional is, it is essential for them to keep educating themselves. To increase their knowledge and be able to deliver when called upon. Professionals need to recognize that the competition is out there and therefore, they should not rest on their oars. Even when not officially affiliated with any professional body, individual professionals must take responsibility for their knowledge about design and the business of design.
Thirdly, there is a need for professionals to come together and form a self-regulatory body or a professional association. The organization would need to present what makes an individual a professional graphics designer. Could this be the formal education that has been received, the number of years of experience, or the accolades the person has received? This organization should move beyond the Nigerian Designer group on Facebook to something that is registered and recognized. People may have to join by getting their works verified and possibly getting recommendations. There is the Design Council in the UK and The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) in the USA.
Fourth, provided that this professional body is strong enough, they can start working with Universities and other educational institutions to develop curriculum that supports graphics designer as a professional. This means they need to work universities, possibly splitting it from visual design, mass communication, and/or journalism and creating a unique program/degree for graphics designers. There should be a curriculum that prepares the student for jobs as a professional designer.
Fifth, while still waiting for the Universities to develop their curriculum to meet the needs of the students, it is essential for the professional body to provide opportunities for quality education through short programs and courses. This could involve working with existing academies, accrediting them, and certifying their courses. This could also lead to a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program that is recognized in the industry. Suggesting that anyone to be admitted should have passed courses from an accredited training institute. Anyone that wants to be recognized should be able to demonstrate their verified understanding of design.
Sixth, there is a need to build collaboration with other stakeholders within the creative sphere. This collaboration may mean liaising with other professional bodies like Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), and Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (AAPN) to work with accredited designers. This could also mean working with the advertising agencies, media houses, and other professionals to ensure that the place of graphics designer in the country is recognized.
Lastly, educating the community is essential. While we cannot stop people from using the services offered by these “quack designers”, the professionals need to educate people about the business of design, the expectation from a graphics designer, and how to do business. The community must raise awareness about the damages quack designer can cause to a business. This education is essential because many may not be aware and therefore, the professionals have a role to play as a body and individuals to protect the industry.
Graphics design is a profession but not recognized as a professional profession. Many quack designers are coming onboard to disrupt the industry, albeit negatively. In this piece, I have tried to recognize the challenges of the sector and importantly highlight opportunities and a possible action plan. Few individuals must take the responsibility of changing the narrative of graphics designers in Nigeria by banding together to form a professional association that will be tasked with educating people and also developing the industry at large. It is, however, a long-term duty, but a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.