Andrew Moffitt – Three Things

Published:  May 26, 2011
Andrew Moffitt – Three Things

Each month, desktop invites a creative to write an open letter to the design community on a topic of their choice.

1. Hello, I’m a…
I’m sure I am not alone in saying that it’s very hard to describe what I do to a person on the street. When you make a living being creative, it’s difficult for people to understand exactly what you do all day. I never liked the title ‘graphic designer’, because graphic design only makes up 20 percent of my experience and only 20 percent of our daily workload at Moffitt.Moffitt. The majority of our time is taken up by thinking, strategising and talking, so graphic design seems less relevant to ourselves and our clients. I used to default to the shortened version by calling myself a ‘designer’, but people’s responses always came back along the lines of: ‘where can I buy your clothes?’ or ‘where do you sell your line of furniture?’ I’ve also used art director, but people then want to know which gallery I run or which artists I represent.

It’s hard to condense all of the skills we have down into one singular description or occupation. While other trades have tools, services and products, we have thoughts and ideas that have no tangible value. Right now we’re calling ourselves creative directors, which came from the understanding that clients come to us with challenges and we solve them creatively. I think we could all start thinking a little more about what our skills and services are, and challenge whether the term ‘graphic designer’ is really relevant in our daily roles. I can’t help but think the society we live in would hold us in higher regard if we shifted perception away from the old graphic designer title. Just a thought.

2. Creativity is on the inside
There’s a lot of great work pouring out of Australia. I see examples of it scattered throughout international magazines, blogs and image bookmarking sites. As Australians, we’re used to looking to others for inspiration, but now it seems the entire world is looking beyond its own borders for samples of imagination and innovation. The question is whether or not it’s a good thing.

Looking to others helps us define ourselves, our place, our importance and even our value, but the trend of being so connected and so informed can erode our own originality, and perhaps even our culture, as trends take over and style reigns supreme. Being connected is a modern miracle, but some of our finest moments have come from a silent room and one piece of paper. I’ve found that closing your eyes to the world can allow your thoughts to come together in their own unique configuration. The simple step of unplugging from the inspiration overload can create newfound clarity that leads to true originality. Give it a try.

3. To join or not to join?
I haven’t renewed my Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) membership this year. I felt a little guilty and even worried about it. Would my peers turn on me? Is it my duty to be a member? Am I letting the team down? After considering these questions, it really came down to how relevant I felt they have become in my outlook as a creative professional.

My first membership was really all about self-worth. In other words, I wanted to win some awards and feel some kind of recognition within the creative community. But, in the last year, I’ve really questioned the impact of winning an award of any kind. It’s a joy to be published in an awards book, but lately I’ve felt more personal satisfaction stumbling across a student in India blogging about my work than an award hanging on my wall or sitting on my shelf.

Through the internet, our peers are closer to us than ever before. Examples of great work are picked up and passed on in a democratic and organic process driven by complete strangers on a global scale. I’ve found that my work has reached beyond an awards book and has delivered more relationships, joy and, importantly, clients to my door than any award could.

Awards aside, I really feel that AGDA has become too expensive. It’s not a question of cost; it’s a question of value. Do I believe the annual fees of AGDA represent value for what I get in return? The answer is no. I do believe AGDA has a place in our community and it does do a lot of good in many ways, but I feel like it needs to be giving members more value for their investment. It is accountable to its members and until we start demanding more we will continue to get the same service. I’m prepared for the hate mail.

To read AGDA Victoria president, Simon Mundy’s response to this article, click here.

Thumbnail image copyright Andrew Moffitt.

From desktop magazine.

9 Responses

  1. Andrew

    Wholeheartedly agree with you Andrew on all three.

    So the question to number one is, “What should a 40 year-old designer with 20 years experience call himself?” As a freelance, it can be whatever I like, but I don’t know what it is…

    • Good question- it really is defined by what you do for the majority of your working day. Graphic designer is not a title to throw away or look down upon- it simply didn’t encapsulate all of of our services or define what we do all day so it became irrelevant. I think it’s an individuals choice so just take not of what your providing clients on a day to day basis and go from there. If youre delivering more than graphics then perhaps a title change is in order.

  2. Why as a ‘profession’ must we obess over the label we give ourselves? Why do we feel the need to place what we do so neatly into a box, defined by a few words or more? Depending who we are, who we are talking to and the context of any given conversation this will always change slightly, won’t it?

  3. Para above, First line, Sixth word, Change to ‘Obsess’ – Index finger malfunction.

  4. Correction, Seventh Word – abacus malfunction.

    • Hey Kevin. I think we sometimes obsess over over our title because we don’t want to be placed in a box as you said. It means that a title which best represents a broader approach to what we do is more favourable and that’s why people are turning away from ‘graphic designer’ because it’s slightly limiting.

  5. TW

    In terms of what we should call ourselves – it should be simply “Designer” and that’s that.

    People I meet have such unshakeable preconceived ideas of what a graphic designer or interior designer or industrial designer does, that it’s easier to say “designer”. As soon as I mention I am an interior designer, I get “Oh you must come and help me choose some cushions for my lounge room”. No point explaining that my 4 years at uni didn’t once mention the world cushion.

    But when I say “designer” I am instantly categorised as someone who thinks creative, processes data, works collaboratively with other designers etc. Perhaps they don’t understand EXACTLY what I do but it’s easier to explain it from this perspective than try and explain what I am NOT.

    As for the AGDA, I disagree with you. Regardless of how little you get out of this now, it is important that associations such as this exist. Particularly for those starting out in the industry. But they can only exist and function successfully if they have a solid body of experienced members rather than just green ones. As you say yourself, at the beginning you did get a lot of value out it. The success of these groups is the collective experience of its members. If it needs a voice, it needs experienced professional as collateral.

    • Hey TW. I see your point but doesn’t broadening it to just simply designer make it even harder to explain? It’s a tough one but I think that if you feel comfortable with whatever title you give yourself then it’s the right way to go.

      In terms of AGDA- I also see what your saying but unfortunately the organisation isn’t very accessible for those starting out in the industry. In fairness they do have student programs and memberships but as an ongoing annual cost over a lifetime people really are questioning what they get in return. I only became a member when I could afford it and that was long after I was a student. I do believe it does need experienced members in there giving it a voice but if it can’t attract members in the first place then it’s not performing on member expectations. This article has kicked up a storm so hopefully we will see a few changes in the near future which might lead to more reasons to renew and an influx of new members.

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