Design View | Articles and opinion on design professionalism, technique and culture by Andy Rutledge

The Profession That Should Be

May 23, 2011

Last week I published Design Professionalism, the designer’s guide to taking back your profession. I believe that designers need help in taking back their profession because it has, in significant measure, been stolen from them. This is a crime that has lead to widespread, ongoing dissatisfaction. As I wrote in my introduction:

Given the reasons so many of us became designers in the first place it is perhaps easy to consider design to be more of a passion than a profession. While for most designers this perspective is not meant to deliberately diminish or exclude the professional aspects of what we do, it does often distract us from paying proper attention to matters of professionalism. Not surprisingly, this inattention brings dissatisfying consequences…

But it’s not just inattention at fault. There are institutionalized ideals and compulsory practices that destroy professionalism and delude many into less-than-professional careers. It’s a situation that needs redress. So that is what I’ve tried to do with Design Professionalism; to offer designers a set of standards and ideals to be used as a guidebook toward a more professional and more satisfying career.

Design Professionalism is available online as a free resource and in ebook formats for popular eReader devices for a modest price.

I want to thank some folks

Firstly, the Unit Interactive crew: Angela Conlon, my great friend and business partner, models consummate professionalism every day. I couldn’t have imagined going into business with anyone else. The experience of working with her (and others at Unit) contrasts greatly with previous ones and has helped make clear that we’re on the right path. R.A. Ray proofread sections of the treatise and both he and Ryan Rushing were sounding boards for important components of the text, and put up with my distraction during the final weeks of pre-publication preparation, while Ryan Downie worked quickly to help prepare the eBook files. As to the Design Professionalism website, all of the Unit crew contributed insights and criticism during the design process, helping me to arrive at a better design and experience for readers there. Nathan Ford, who recently moved overseas, leaving Unit, contributed his insights and criticisms on the evolving site design, and our discussions dissecting and beating up many of the concepts helped me to solidify the themes. So thanks all; I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

Years ago Andy Budd, during a casual conversation at a Dallas coffee shop, told me that I should write a book. It seemed silly to me then and I wasn’t keen to do it, but I’ve always kept his suggestion in mind. I wonder if I’d have had the mind to write this treatise without someone having suggested that it was the thing to do. Thank you, sir.

Like most designers, I owe part of my success and understanding to Jeffrey Zeldman. It was his words some years ago that convinced me that I could rise out of the kludge to maintain a better standard of web craft. In fact when we designers think of standards, those first codified and long championed by Jeffrey are the ones we most often have in mind. Even though he and I maintain some clear disagreements and have butted heads occasionally, I have nothing but respect for the man. And despite differences, when I asked if he would write the foreword to Design Professionalism, he enthusiastically agreed. In this and other things, I have much to thank him for. Jeffrey is a class act and a model professional.

Typekit is doing good work bringing the power of better type to the web and I’m happy to have used their service to serve up the typeface I wanted (Chaparral Pro Caption) for the web version of Design Professionalism. Keep up the good work, guys.

I also want to thank my friends and many acquaintances who—through emails, instant messages, and Twitter messages—provided continual encouragement throughout the writing process. You guys are awesome and you’ve helped more than you know!

Lastly I want to thank my family for their ongoing, unwavering support and for putting up with my late hours and the weekends where I was often absent while working on the treatise. I love you guys so much and I look forward to hangin’ with you more again!

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I care about our profession and the people in it very much, so I hope that you decide to read and enjoy my little treatise and then put it into practice. Take heart, take responsibility, and take care!