I always find the question, “how long have you been a designer?” difficult to answer. Convenience wants me to answer with the number of years since I landed my first, paid, full-time gig as a designer and philosophical me wants to answer with “for as long as I can humanly remember”.
You see, as a child, I did the same things I now do on a daily basis while employed as a ‘designer’. The difference between then and now is that back then the word ‘design’ didn’t exist in my vocabulary. Now, I’m fully aware of the term ‘designer’, the design industry, and what the concept of design means to the world. Back then I designed on a much lower level whereas now, armed with formal knowledge and experience, I design on a much higher level.
But do these differences determine if you’re a designer or not? I don’t think so. I believe that everyone is a designer in varying capacities and on varying levels. We design our personalities. We design the experiences we have and the way that we live our lives. We design the things we interact with, the things we eat and the way we talk to people. We design everything around us.
And so, when I hear ‘designers’ respond to client critique with “Well, did they go to design school?”, I get frustrated because not even I went to design school. Everyone, throughout their life, develops their own set of design skills. Some people are just aware enough to recognise this, and decide to push development in design further. We all have experience in design and at least the fundamental, base principles of what it means to ‘design’. Everyone has something to offer.
Be open to outside critique; especially critique that comes from a person outside of the formal and traditional realm of 'design'. It is often very useful and dripping with a perspective you didn't even come close to considering.