Whose spotlight is it anyway, The designer or client’s message?


I don’t know about you but I often bump into questions/discussions about creatives expressing themselves though their bread-and-butter. Graphic designers are no exception, they’re believed to be expressing themselves through design/ing.

This belief was also part of the questions I was asked last month, when I was interviewed by Untrendy Graphics.

I think this makes no sense at all. Well, at least in cases of client work.

Let’s stop for a second and employ basic logic.

Does it really make any sense for a client to take their hard-earned money and their time to employ a graphic designer to express him/herself – not the client?

Shouldn’t the design[er] communicate the client’s message? What’s the use of having a design brief if you’re employed to express nothing but thought, opinions or feelings?

Fine, you might have a minimalist approach to design, but that’s not really ‘expressing’ yourself.

The closest to ‘self-expression’ a graphic designer should get is employing their design philosophy/approach to the client’s design project, nothing more.
Your thoughts and feelings as graphic designer during a design project are exactly that, yours, not the client’s.

When I see a design be it a logo, poster, brochure, website etc. by Peter for XYZ Furniture, shouldn’t it ‘shout’ XYZ Furniture (and its message) not peter the graphic designer’s thoughts or feelings?

An effective design should do nothing but help the client get their intended message across.

If you plan on expressing yourself and still get to put food on the table, one of the best and fair way on both parties, designer and client, is to maybe be a painter, and hopefully some art gallery will manage to sell your feelings or thoughts.
Artists (painters, musicians, sculptures etc.) express themselves, and then look for someone to buy their ‘expressions’.

While on the other hand we as graphic designers get clients who employ us to communicate their message in a format that only we can, visually.

In almost all instances there need to be a ‘need’ for a certain message to be communicated, before a client employs a graphic designer.
So expressing yourself instead of the client will be ignoring the ‘need’, that made you ‘needed’ in the first place.

Shouldn’t graphic design be a sort of ‘behind the scenes’ type of profession? As like in photography, shouldn’t the subject/client message be in the spotlight NOT the photographer?

For as long as I’m doing design work for a client, I don’t see how I can possibly express myself through design/ing.

I did a logo design for Black On Black sometime last year, the client was very happy with the design, I personally love the logo – it might have been executed through a ‘minimal’ approach, which is my personal approach to design.
But the logo design says absolutely nothing about me and/or how I was feeling when designing it!

This is simply because I’m well aware that as a graphic designer, I’m paid to be the messenger not the message?