I definitely love to cook. I love baking too.

As I was making dinner last night and thinking about design (as I often do), a question came to mind; Just because I can mix a bunch of ingredients together in a bowl and make a delicious dinner, does that make me a chef?

Chefs are trained in the art of food preparation and know the ins and outs of every ingredient they use. They intimately understand flavor, texture, color, methods of preparation, presentation and the science behind what will thicken and clarify a sauce or make bread rise and a souffle crater. I understand the basic principles of cooking and I can successfully translate a recipe into something edible, but I would never call myself an expert or – a chef.

The conversation about the “value of design” has come up often lately in my interactions with other creatives and one of the biggest concerns is this idea people have that a computer, some skills and CorelDraw makes virtually anyone a designer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to dis the do-it-yourself-er. There are many home improvement projects I have (mostly) successfully completed with a few tools and some instruction from the guy at Home Depot, but that’s a far cry from building an entire house by myself. Chef’s, architects and other specialists spend a lot of time and money getting educated in their chosen fields and then working in the real world to build and fine tune their skills and intuition.

As do designers.

Every designer has their chosen discipline(s) and forms of artistic expression. Most have had at least four years of formal training in higher education and many have Master’s degrees and Ph.Ds. All of us have studied the history of art, the science of color, form and how the eyes and brain work together to create perception that is distinctly unique to each individual. We studied Art Theory, Critical Thinking and every imaginable combination of fine arts (my personal combination was drawing, sculpture, ceramics and jewelry making.)

In 12 years of practice as a communication designer I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, which papers work best on which presses, which techniques will save money and still look expensive, and how to design and layout a 5-color, 16-page, content heavy brochure, with die cuts, that is technically precise and press ready – in four days, but looks like it took 4 months to design. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, as much as I’m trying to make the point that designers know more than people think we know. Our value is in our skill and experience; just like any good chef, architect, doctor, attorney or specialist.  ✻