Don’t call me a graphic designer!

What’s in a name? I am going to go out there and suggest that it was the advent of digital publishing technology (desktop publishing, electronic publishing, or whatever we call it), that defined what it is that graphic designers actually are and do today.

Indeed, since the advent of digital publishing during the 1980s, graphic design has become an increasingly evolving and complex professional practice. In the process, so have interactions between graphic designers and stakeholders. For example, as well as traditional design for print, graphic designers now inhabit domains including web design, mobile application design and social media, with some also taking tentative steps into 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality (Hastreiter 2017). Moreover, the increasing challenge to professional graphic design practice from technology (Drucker & McVarish 2013; Helfand 2002) and the growth of in-house design positions (Duggan 2013; Geraedts, Verlinden & Stellingwerff 2012; Silk & Stiglin 2016) present challenges to graphic designers’ professionalism (Fishel 2008).

Such industry-wide changes have increasingly brought professional graphic design practitioners into contact with ever more diverse stakeholders. This increases the potential for an overlap of responsibilities and fresh challenges to professional practitioners’ design capital.

Combined with the ongoing crisis of graphic design lacking wider recognition as a specific design discipline, it is unsurprising that many professional practitioners might feel not as secure in their positions as they might. This new article (Meron 2021) discusses research that shows that some professional practitioners are even questioning whether the term graphic design is reducing their design capital within the creative process.

As ever, the findings under the surface are not as straightforward as might be expected.

Drucker, J & McVarish, E 2013, Graphic design history : a critical guide, Pearson, Boton.

Duggan, B 2013, The Rise of the In-House Agency,

Fishel, C 2008, In-House Design in Practice; Real-world solutions for graphic designers, FW Publications, Georgetown, Ontario, Canada.

Geraedts, J, Verlinden, EDJ & Stellingwerff, M ‘Three views on additive manufacturing: business, research, and education’, in I Horváth, A Albers, M Behrendt & Z Rusák (eds), Karlsruhe, Germany, 7-11 May 2012,

Hastreiter, N 2017, What’s The Future Of Graphic Design?, Web page, viewed 23/11/2017.

Helfand, J 2002, ‘De Stijl, New Media, and the Lessons of Geometry’, in S Heller, M Bierut & W Drenttel (eds), Looking closer 4, critical writings on graphic design, Allworth Press, New York.

Meron, Y 2021, ‘Terminology and Design Capital: Examining the Pedagogic Status of Graphic Design through Its Practitioners’ Perceptions of Their Job Titles‘, International Journal of Art & Design Education. doi: 10.1111/jade.12353

Silk, AJ & Stiglin, MM 2016, ‘Build It, Buy It Or Both? Rethinking the Sourcing of Advertising Services’, International Journal of Marketing Studies, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 1-13.