Do you need to know Photoshop to be a designer?

Posted by in Multipotentiality

Let’s put it this way: my entire life, I have had a love-hate relationship with design. Well, no, actually. It was more of a love-hate relationship with the designer. Truth is, I love design. I crave design. I thrive when I design.

“Wait, what? You design? But you’re not a designer…” Or am I?

First of all, what is a designer? Let’s ask Merriam-Webster!

designer-definition

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/designer

“Creates and execute plans”: I can do that.

“Creates and manufactures a new product style”: I can do that.

So much for my graphic artist friends… Actually, Merriam-Webster does not even mention the graphic artists. I give you that, this definition is limited.

From graphic design to design thinking

Fast-Rewind to the beginning of my career. The first time I pushed the door of that tiny design agency, up in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood of Lyon, I don’t think I was making the difference between design and advertising. At the time, they were offering a wide variety of design services: product, set, graphic, multimedia,… I am very grateful for all the culture I was able to absorb from the team over there. I particularly remember a car ride where one of the founding partner educated me on the Bauhaus style… Suddenly, things went from being “ugly” to being “meaningful”… and that, my friends, makes a world of difference in how one sees the world.

This is also the time when I developed this anger toward designers. Anger, based mostly on my low self-esteem because:

  1. I didn’t go to art school
  2. I couldn’t use any of the creative suite tools (except for QuarkXpress because we didn’t have a different word processor in the agency)

It took me many years, and rubbing shoulders with great thinkers and designers all along my career (including but not limited to the class I teach and the coaching I provide for the IDEA program at EM Lyon) to understand that design starts way before we even open any form of software.

I was lucky to be initiated to Design Thinking and trained to run Design Sprint weeks (more on that in this book: Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days), which is more than enough to quench my thirst of feeling like a designer.

So, no, I never went to art school. But I’m curious and art has always been a huge part of my life. And no, I never learned how to use Photoshop. But I can think like a designer. And today, I want to be able to firmly call myself one. Whether the graphic artists from my past like it or not.

Photo by Sabri Tuzcu