"I am an electrician, so I work with things that generate electricity."
"I am a plumber, so I work with piping and rooter concerns."
"I am a preacher, so I preach on Sundays."
"I am a printer, so I print stuff."
"I am a designer, so I design things."
Is this really true? I don't believe so. If a printer only printed stuff, he would soon go out of business. Why, you ask? Because his job is really to satisfy the needs of his market. If he ignores the needs of his customer base, they will go elsewhere to get their needs met, and as a result he goes out of business. Printing stuff may be the main activity of his business, but the activity is defined by the market's needs.
In other words, your business is not what you do, it is meeting needs of those who you serve. Forget this, and your business will fail, especially in the age of commoditization. In the field of graphic design it is no different. We don't do what we do, because we simply like to design stuff, or produce products. We do what we do to service a clientele in order to meet their needs, whether it is to communicate, build their reputation through branding efforts, or reestablishing a connection with their market in a way they can not do on their own. All this is accomplished through the means of visual design.
In real life, what does this mean?
- It means that the focus of our business is not our activity, it is our customer.
- It means that listening to them is more important than producing a result. (What good is a result, if that's not the result they want?)
- It means that "going the extra mile" is the norm, not the exception.
- It means that customers are not the problem, their problem is the problem.
- It means that we work to meet the client's needs, not our own needs.
- It means that we understand that we get paid by our clients as an act of trust, not just a payment for a product.
- It means that we understand that our service is of great value, not just a "cool thing to do for a buck."
- Lastly, it means that we carry a responsibility that goes beyond our own little lives. Our actions affect a whole community of people: other graphic designers, future clients, even the people they know, and eventually the world.
I believe Chuck Green has created a good start in understanding some of these issues in his Design Constitution. I believe this is a good beginning. (If you visit his site, let him know what you think.)