How the Apprentice Misrepresents Graphic Designers – Lord Sugar ‘You’re Fired!’

On Wednesday night the final of the ninth series of The Apprentice aired. As always, I greatly enjoyed it, but as with every series I have watched to date there was one thing that frustrated me immensely – the portrayal of graphic designers.

As a graphic designer myself, it really touched a nerve that The Apprentice renders the role of a graphic or web designer as simply mechanical rather than creative. And whilst I appreciate the format of the programme dictates this to some extent, I feel the need to explicate the reality is actually very different. Graphic designers are pivotal in the creation of a brand.

Whilst business people can provide valuable input in to a design project and the purpose of the brand, website or whatever else is being designed; they lack not just the technical ability to use the design software, but the knowledge of layout, colours, typography and use of imagery. When it comes to influencing your audience a professional has an in-depth knowledge of the principles of design and how they can be used to communicate a message, present data or elicit the desired response, cannot be substituted.

Moreover, graphic designers have creative, open minds and look for inspiration outside the usual confinements. It is this quality that makes a brand stand out from competition.

The role of a graphic designer is to create visual solutions to communication problems; making the complex easy to understand. Design is not simply cosmetic, or an embellishment, good design is functional. This requires interpretive, conceptual and creative skills many other business professionals (and certainly a lot of The Apprentice candidates) lack.

Designers are problem solvers. So rather than trying to design a brand, website or ad yourself, present the designer with a problem to solve. Rather than saying ‘make that blue’, ‘move that over here’ or in Luisa’s case ‘I”VE BEEN HERE HALF AN HOUR AND ALL YOU’VE MANAGED TO DO IS MOVE THAT FROM HERE TO THERE!’ explain what you are trying to achieve: ‘can we make it feel calmer or more subtle,’ for example. Why? Because we are thinking of the design as a whole – changing one element can have a major impact on the rest of the design. Plus, more often than not we’re thinking about how the different design elements can later be applied to different marketing material – your stationery, brochure or website.

So don’t make the mistake many of The Apprentice candidates made and think you can design yourself. Creating a brand that is visually appealing and works for the right audience is best left to the experts – as Jason and his Friendship & Flowers fiasco of episode eight so aptly demonstrated.

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