Why taking one InDesign class doesn’t make you a designer

Owning a hammer doesn’t make you a carpenter.

If you’re like most people, you would think that to be a designer you need to learn how to use the Adobe suite (Indesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator are the main ones). These programs are complicated and very difficult to learn, that’s why there are many traditional and online courses offered to teach people how to use them. Indesign is the emerging program taught that has the capabilities necessary to create most projects that graphic designers take on. Why, then, does it offend me so much that people tend to believe that if you know how to use this program, you’re a designer?

Designers are not chimpanzees

If you want the short answer, it’s because you can’t learn a lifetime worth of knowledge and skills in six weeks. If all a designer had to do was make an exact copy of a layout or logo or whatever it may be in InDesign, then sure, taking an Indesign class would accomplish that. However, most designers do more than what a chimpanzee could be trained to do. Designers have to think, research, compare, analyze, brainstorm, draw. In other words, we conceptualize. A design would be nothing without a big idea. And if right now you’re thinking “Well coming up with ideas is easy. Anyone can do that.” Then you’re right. Thinking of ideas is easy, but thinking of the right idea is very, very hard. Nine times out of ten, the logo you see on the highway, or the ad you see on tv, was the product of a deduction from hundreds of other ideas that weren’t good enough.

You have to know your client and your client’s audience

The trick? You have to know your client’s audience. Get to know what makes them laugh, what makes them sad, and what motivates them. This is the kind of thing that you can’t learn overnight. This comes from experience and studying what makes other brands successful. Did you know that Mcdonald’s isn’t famous because their food really is better? They’re famous because of their marketing and design team. They studied which colors provoke what feelings, what different shapes might subconsciously mean, and how recognizable a form can be from what distance. And all that was before the logo was even created.

Simple does not mean easy

From now on, if you ever look at a design and think “That’s so simple, I could’ve done that!”, then just remember this quote by Paul Rand (designer of the IBM, UPS, and ABC logos, and much more),

“Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.”