Designers can be a bit of an enigma to people. For most, the questions that follow my personal introduction include: “So what exactly do you do?” “Do you know Photoshop?” “Do you draw and stuff?”
Over the years, I’ve come to accept the ambiguity of the term designer. In fact, it’s become a sort of blessing because it’s a fun conversation starter, and you almost always get follow-up questions. However, this same ambiguity lends designers to a realm of ridicule, and I did not realize the prevalence of this attitude in Hollywood until I read “No One Takes Graphic Designers Seriously,” a Fast Company article that analyzes a satirical YouTube video compiled by two graphic design students.
The article highlights the crass film cuts from the video stitches, in which graphic designers are portrayed “as assholes or dithering dimwits.” While I can see some truth in these depictions, the article also highlights that nearly all of the compiled clips are at least five years old, if not older.
The world of design is so much more advanced and so much more revered in 2015 than it was just 5, 10, or even 15 years ago. The term “designer” now spans across both print and digital realms; from web and product design and even to architecture, it’s hard to assign the designer to a miniscule role. They morph and shape themselves to craft the interfaces we work with (i.e. Instagram, Twitter, Google), the places we visit (i.e. libraries, museums, Disneyland), the products we use (i.e. cups, computers, phones, pens), the clothes and brands we wear (i.e. Nike, Apple, Samsung), and the media we consume (i.e. the Superbowl, YouTube, and Snapchat).
One of the leading and most highly regarded brands in these fields is Apple. As we look around, you’ll see just how pervasive Apple design culture has been. We see the power of design emanate from Apple’s products and marketing. With the new iWatch launching, the news is buzzing with the watch’s key design elements and interface. The Apple Watch advertisements in VOGUE have also been the latest topic of discussion.
We can also see that Hollywood has graduated from depicting these juvenile tropes of “the designer” with the showcase of the 2015 Oscars graphics. Henry Hobson, the mastermind behind this year’s Oscars graphics, art directed 23 of the 24 award title cards. My personal favorites include the title cards for the Best Picture and Production Design awards.
For the best picture category, we see that Hobson has dwindled down each movie to a specific set of visually stunning motifs. From the dancing mustaches for The Grand Budapest Hotel to the intricate wiring that make up Alan Turing’s brain for The Imitation Game, each animation has its own character and cleverness but still stays true to the Academy Award branding. With the production design category, Hobson neatly photographed and arranged items used in each movie’s set production, giving us a glimpse at the (often ignored) details that make up these amazing motion pictures. From the nuts and bolts of Interstellar to the paints and paintbrushes of Mr. Turner, we find ourselves in awe at the commonplace items methodically arranged in front of our eyes.
People like Hobson or Apple’s Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive show the general public that designers are not people to be mocked or forgotten about. Rather, they shape the visual world in front of us – what we consume, wear, and buy. That’s a powerful gift to have.