Design Certification?

I just wanted to vent, I finished reading a post on here, and the person who was responding mentioned that until the graphic organization’s bodies get together and make up some real certification we will continue to have wanna be designers doing some really bad designs.
I am not a designer but have been in printing for many years. I work for a printing company that does over 40 million in business so this isn’t a small mom and pop and you would expect that the clients would be larger and more professional. Things have gotten so bad in the last 5 years that I decided to start a web page and a youtube channel to try and help.

BUT yesterday I received a file from a very large college that was supposed to be 16-page small saddle stitch book. The designer had taken an InDesign document, made it 9 pages of 6"x9". Then took pages 2-7 of the document used the page tool and made them 12"x9" basically making a spread. By not just using facing pages and making a 16 pg document with all 6"x9" pages.
So we took it and had to split the pages to get it imposed for our 40" press because the Quantity was large. Since these files are now in our workflow as single pages we made a pdf proof that was single pages and we crop them down to trim size, because most people do not want to see bleed and trim marks.
This graphic instructor called back to the CSR and insisted that the pages be put into spreads because they needed to see it how it would print.

Here is where I am looking for a little input. If this person is teaching people in a large college they are going to go into the workforce designing books like this.

If they can not come up with some type of certification for people to take a test and call themselves a certified designer, shouldn’t there at least be testing that you would need to be able to teach others, especially those who charge thousands of dollars a year to students??

I wasn’t going to post this but then read a new post that started with “I am using photoshop to design logo’s” Stop just Stop. I watched a youtube video of someone designing every page of a 12-page booklet in photoshop and then bringing the jpgs of the each page into InDesign. There were 30,000 views and all kind of folks having him, am I missing something???

1 Like

I believe this problem will only get worse, at least until print design somehow, someday slides into obsolescence.

Governmental intervention in matters of product/service provider credentials is generally reserved for scenarios in which the clients’ health or safety is at risk. When someone’s choice of provider costs them extra money, and they receive an inferior product, it falls squarely under caveat emptor.

Welcome to Free Enterprise.

My very first post in the very first version of this forum over 15 (?) years ago was very much the same to what you just posted. It certainly hasn’t gotten any better.
We are now well into the next generation of design instructors, basically the blind leading the blind. A lot of them grew up on Photoshop too.

There will be no licensing, no bar set, no nothing. It’s more than 20 years too late for that. Even print providers such as you and I just grit our teeth, adjust our set up fees and print the stuff. We aren’t going to say “No” to designer clients. You can only hope to teach them one at a time and hope it sticks (most times it does not.)

My mantra is “I can’t retire out of this industry fast enough to avoid the coming train wreck.” Print will never die. Not completely. There will always be printers dealing with substandard file prep until long after I die. Or, alternatively, considering all of us experienced print folks are graying out of the industry, everything will be drag and drop online through dumbed down store front interfaces. I wouldn’t even consider graphic design to be a viable career option for a young person today.
Adapt.
Or go crazy.

What you have described here can only be viewed as another failure of our educational institutions. Who are they hiring to teach courses like graphic design and what are their qualifications? Is their background really so devoid of interaction with printers? I see many jobs that are not print ready in my position in the prepress dept. and I guess it’s good for me as it provides job security. Somebody needs to preflight, massage and impose the files correctly so they are printable. But I totally sympathize with your grievance.

Yup, most days I justify my existence because of bad files.
Other days it is just frustrating as heck.
But it will never change.
Find a way to roll with it.
I remember way back when, hanging around the AIGA forums. The designers there at the time sneered at a lowly printer trying to tell them their methods were wrong. I gave up right quick. Today, I don’t care enough. But I will help out those willing to learn. Part of the big reason I come here. The best part of it is when someone asks me to recommend a designer. I certainly don’t suggest one whose files give me headaches. :innocent:

The problem is it’s not job security when they are not paying for us to spend hours a day correcting bad files. The other thing is sales people that will not even make a phone call whne there is something major wrong certainly are not contacting the client to see if they would be willing to work with what we have already corrected.

I started my site because I noticed that whenever a client would call in to me directly and skip the CSR or sales they were more than willing to listen and learn from what prepress had to say.

Graphic Designer, went to an accreditted university. Graduated.
However, during the course of instruction i learned a bit about graphic design but i never ever learned enough. The motion graphics course was a joke, and way below any standard.

The school doesnt have a web design 2 class, only instructing on the basics.
We were taught grids, layout, type, breif instruction during projects. group critiques, we learned as we went and we experimented and grew.

However, i feel like I didnt learn what i need to send to a printer, and we didnt spend nearly enough time InDesiging. Theres always time to grow, and a lot of time for me to learn on my own.
Sadly, its up to the public to decide if the designers they are hiring are crap when they turn in subpar products and photoshop logos.

There is something wrong with the business model if they aren’t making enough to pay for your time. It’s a given today that any new print client is bound to have bad files. Sometimes they prove you wrong and things fly through with no issues, but if you constantly find your clients aren’t reading spec sheets, aren’t giving you bleeds, aren’t properly setting up layouts for imposition, management has to adjust. I do wide format where more likely than not, the file is set up wrong. New client gets set-up fee. Established client that shows they know the ropes, that fee might be “forgotten” on the final bill. Not sure what else to tell you.

Sales reps don’t want to tick off their clients. Especially if they work on commission. It should be CSR’s job to preflight and talk to clients if the sales rep doesn’t want that part of the job. I do a lot of outsourcing and CSRs have all been good things. Sometimes the rep is too busy and sometimes the prepress tech is just as ornery as I am and doesn’t like to answer the phone calls when they are busy.

I get it you aren’t in a position to change things. You can try a website or blog or vblog. The problem is, those who need the most help are the ones that don’t think they need it, and they won’t go looking for it. Or when you try to get them to fix something, it’s always, “Well so-and-so never has any trouble with my files.”
Yeah, so why do they “print them wrong”?
I got into it once not too long ago with a designer telling me I didn’t know how to do my job if I needed bleed on a die-cut. “You only have to cut off the white, how hard is that?”
Um… yeah.

After ten years working professionally after college, I headed back for my master’s degree at the University of Utah. It soon became uncomfortably apparent that I had a much better grasp of the design profession than did the members of my graduate committee. I’ll skip the examples since they’re too numerous and too long ago, but if these professors were tossed out of academia and into the real world, they would have failed — I certainly wouldn’t have hired them. Consequently, I spent two years putting together little art projects of no consequence. This was Utah’s flagship state university but the chair and professors of the design program were largely defiantly ignorant about design matters of practical importance.

I know there are good university programs because I’ve talked to people who have graduated from them. I know of no statistics, but my best guess is that most tenured graphic design instructors at most universities (let alone all the for-profit schools) are too embedded in academia to know what’s taking place in the real world. The best instructors I ever had were the adjunct instructors who held down actual jobs in the field and taught part-time in the evenings.

The one organization that could likely cause a positive shift in the U.S. is the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) — mostly because of its size and ubiquity. It’s my opinion that they should institute a certification program involving prerequisite education/experience and periodic exams that must be passed before receiving AIGA certifications. I think it might also be beneficial for them to set up different levels of certification that would depend on a mix of experience, knowledge and speciality.

They could then bill this certification and endorsement as the only reliable indicator for clients to ensure that they were hiring skilled, knowledgable, qualified, talented professionals, This is something that would benefit the profession, benefit clients and would seem to be something that’s actually needed. AIGA, however, seems to have no interest in any of this. Instead, it’s basically a social club where the most successful socializers rise to the top then maintain the status quo.

The AIGA wouldn’t set a quality bar that half their membership couldn’t pass. They would be inclined to set it far to low, cuz membership dues. Not AIGA, Not GAG, Not SEGD, none of them will do this. It won’t come from outside the industry either, like from the printers, cuz we aren’t going to turn away paying work either. It should have happened directly when we went from paste-up to desktop. The oldsters who had been in the industry before it went digital had the opportunity to control the future of their profession, but chose not to. I was too young, still in college and didn’t see the train wreck coming until about 5 years after getting into the industry. Already too late then.

Certification wouldn’t accomplish much. All sorts of professions are licensed and that doesn’t stop substandard work.

I was told this by a pre-press guy… Here’s how you stop designers from abusing you. You tell them their files aren’t set up correctly, and it will be $250/hour for you to contract a graphic designer to rush fix it, and you’ll need their authorization on a change order. If you are feeling charitable, you tell them you might be able to get the sales rep to waive the additional fees this time, but they really need to pay attention to set up in the future. Under no circumstance do you ever fix things for the designer without telling them, because you are shielding them from the consequences of their ignorance, and guaranteeing they will continue to send you faulty files in the future. If there is something you don’t like about the set up, you need to bring it to their attention… every single time.

Absolutely. There are 4 components of legit art education… it will address history, criticism, aesthetics, and technique. The full time, tenure track professors are usually outstanding in the first three. They can talk color theory and Saul Bass and the genius of certain logos, and go on and on about that stuff. That’s where they fought their battles and got tenure. But they know very little about the software tools and their application. You don’t get tenure for your Indesign or Photoshop skills.

Now adjunct faculty is the opposite. They’re part timers, teaching is usually a side gig. They spend their week working in a business, using ID or PS, then show up to teach a class. Very highly knowledgeable about the tools and techniques. Ask the tenured about the theoretical, and don’t waste your time asking them about technical things, software, file set up. They don’t know it. Ask the adjuncts about that.

So yeah, it doesn’t surprise me that some instructors wouldn’t know how to set up a certain type of file.

I agree that they won’t do it, but I don’t think membership dues are the stumbling block — at least there’s no need for them to be a problem.

AIGA currently offers several different levels of membership (from $50 up to $2,500 per year) and group memberships (from $675 to $7,500). None of these memberships, as far as I can tell, offer anything but small discounts on various goods and services that can easily be found in dozens of other places for free. In other words, their membership fees are basically charity contributions with no meaningful value to anyone other than those who like meet-ups, socials and contests.

Although, if it were up to me, I’d restructure and consolidate some of these membership levels, I wouldn’t do away with them. People would still be able to join AIGA no matter their level of expertise.

What I am suggesting is a new and actually useful feature: AIGA certification. To become AIGA certified, a designer would need to pass competency exams that would consist of a combination of education, experience and knowledge. The certification exams would not focus on aesthetics since there’s no non-subjective way to measure that. Instead, it would focus on the real-world practical and business skills necessary to gain certification in various fields of design. There would be several different types of certification that correspond to various disciplines or levels within the larger field of graphic design and they would all involve serious, controlled exams that would cost several hundred dollars and be good for, say, five years before needing to be renewed with another exam.

This would only work if AIGA vigorously promoted their certification as the only professional-level design certification endorsed by the country’s largest professional design organization. In other words, they would promote their certification as being the gold standard for employers and businesses to rely upon to ensure that designers they were considering hiring had passed the rigorous standards necessary to get the AIGA certification.

Over time, if consistently done right, the public would come to associate quality and professionalism in design with this certification. Businesses would still be able to hire anyone they wanted, but without that AIGA endorsement, they’d be hiring the wannabes and amateurs.

Of course, they’ll never do it because it’s just not a priority for the leaders of AIGA or any other professional design organization with a reach and reputation necessary to pull it off successfully.

As for states licensing only professions with health and safety implications, that’s a big factor, but there are dozens of legally required certifications for professions as varied as interior design, auctioneers, makeup artists, shampooers, home entertainment installers, wildlife pest handlers, realtors, private detectives and florists among others. It would be hard to argue that competency licensing for a florist or an interior designer is any more important than state competency certification for graphic design.

Again, though, it won’t happen because there are no professional design organization lobbying for it. And as you mentioned, it’s late to be arguing for it now — unless, of course, AIGA started approaching state legislators and offering their professional endorsement to introduce the necessary amendments to existing licensing laws in the next legislative sessions. Honestly, I don’t think it would be all that difficult if the commitment were there to do it on AIGA’s part. But state-mandated licensing would actually cut into their membership dues, so not only will they never advocate for state licensing, they would actively oppose it.

I agree that certification wouldn’t eliminate substandard work, but it would eliminate the unqualified who are incapable of competent work from becoming certified. In other words, competency standards wouldn’t prevent those passing the exams from doing bad work, but a solid line would be drawn between those who have demonstrated via testing their competence as opposed to those who have not.

It would also have the added practical benefit of pressuring the universities to hire competent professors and implement curricula of the kind necessary to pass the exams upon graduation.

Requoted for Truth:

I was told this by a pre-press guy… Here’s how you stop designers from abusing you. You tell them their files aren’t set up correctly, and it will be $250/hour for you to contract a graphic designer to rush fix it, and you’ll need their authorization on a change order. If you are feeling charitable, you tell them you might be able to get the sales rep to waive the additional fees this time, but they really need to pay attention to set up in the future. Under no circumstance do you ever fix things for the designer without telling them, because you are shielding them from the consequences of their ignorance, and guaranteeing they will continue to send you faulty files in the future. If there is something you don’t like about the set up, you need to bring it to their attention… every single time.

Prepress can be enablers in their own mess.
We don’t charge quite $250 per hour, but we do charge.
We certainly don’t fix things without telling them. I’m not gonna pay $$$$ for a mistake in a run of large, expensive, one-off graphics!

I’m willing to bet I wouldn’t pass a cert exam. I’ve only ever done wide format. Even Adobe doesn’t know that exists, let alone the designers in charge of AIGA. I’ve dabbled in the Adobe Cert, but I use shortcuts so much I have absolutely no idea sometimes which menus they are in, and I use workarounds they don’t even know exist. I didn’t do well on the free tests, LOL.

In your experience… somebody brings you a flawed file and you tell them there will be an upcharge to fix it… do they continue to bring you files with the same flaw, requiring same upcharges, in the future?

I think some fault lies with printers in that, from my experience, they’re hesitant to educate clients about the most simple things, which often sets the stage for designers supplying files based upon guesswork rather than solid specifications.

I’ve worked with a whole lot of printers over the years. Some supply meticulous and thorough instructions regarding things like color profiles, dot gain, rich black mixes, templates, bleed and safety settings and other preferences and options that often differ from one printer to the next. They’re obviously not in a position to hold the hands of uneducated designers and bring them up to speed, but I’m referring, instead, to things like settings and file preparation idiosyncrasies between printers or print jobs.

Most printers I worked with supply few to no detailed instructions — even when they’re asked. More often than not, when I call a printer with questions, I’ll get an “I’ll get back to you” answer that takes several days and is often mistranslated from prepress through the sales rep. When I ask to speak to prepress technicians, half the time they’re too busy to talk or I’ll get an answer that I know has been dumbed down due to the assumption that I won’t understand them. When I push the issue, they’ll just tell me to send what I have and they’ll figure it out. Sometimes I get the impression that they don’t even understand my questions and that I’m trying to get answers from people who have no real depth of understanding about the broader field of printing — they only know the step-by-step procedures necessary to do their jobs.

I’ve been in the business around 40 years, so I know my way around these issues, but I also remember graduating from college and being frustrated with not knowing exactly how to prepare files (mechanicals back then) and getting no help at all from printers I contacted. I honestly think it would be a worthwhile service for larger printers to hold free classes for new designers — maybe every month or so — on how to prepare files and avoid common mistakes. Even though the classes would be free, they’d be more than paid back by those very designers who would more than likely send their next jobs to that very company.

Yes. They do the same bad things over and over. Most of it is bleed and safety issues. Some of it is putting things that should print on non-printing layers or vice-versa, and a lot of it has to do with wide format being so oddly different from conventional print in a few very important ways, that they just think they know what to do, then do it wrong. I’ve had a few learn over the years, but they’re the ones that do wide format almost exclusively, so they have a vested interest.

B, a couple of my outsource printers try every once in a while to hold classes. You know who shows up? No one. No. One. Not even if there is a free lunch.

Any of us are perfectly happy to give two-hour tours of the facilities to design students. We get maybe one college a year, but haven’t in the last several. The trade school we used to work with has pretty much discontinued the design/print division. They do more front and back end web design now.

I received the most practical prepress advice from the printers while putting in an order. I had a great printer that I would get quotes from often. I’d tell her I’m working on a brochure and give her the specs. She’d come back with a quote for exactly what I asked for, but also for a quote with reduced dimensions, so that I could fit more pages per sheet (I had not know the actual dimensions of the paper being fed into the machine, so it was impossible for me to know that). Likewise, she would include quotes of various papers as well.

Those little touches made me a customer for life. I made sure that we went with her, even when she wasn’t the cheapest. I feel it is a mutual relationship that needs to build.

That being said, I totally empathize with printers that have one-off projects with clueless young designers. I would be frustrated and likely tell them the specs of the file set-up and tell them to re-send.

It can be frustrating, but we also understand that things have to get done when they have to get done. I wouldn’t bounce a file for the sake of bouncing it. Especially with a first timer and especially if they have a deadline. My job is to keep the cogs turning. Tossing something back may just come back later as a wrench in the works. If a job becomes a Rush, something else gets bumped and someone ends up doing overtime on a sunny summer weekend. And it ain’t the designer. :wink:

I just want to add that most things that happen in my company are exactly what Just-B mentioned. I would say that the csr and a lot of time the sales people are the ones making things worst. I tried to get our company to post videos and hold classes. But when they dragged their feet for months after I spent hours on my own time making things branded for them I decided to try it on my own channel. I think the biggest was also mentioned that No One cares and No One will tune it but I am going to keep making them just in case someone is searching for an issue that their printer doesn’t want to help them with.

This all started for me when I tried to explain to a CSR who was in the same type of printing for over 40 years in paste up, sales, and now as a CSR. I told her that the files had no bleeds and the images were right on the edge, and would be distorted if we stretched them. Just so the client was aware. I seen the email reply that she sent days after the job was printed.
Her email told the designer that her files needed to be bigger by .25" all the way around. So that explained why the designer sent me a new file that was bigger but did not address or fix the bleed. We ended up fixing the files to get the job out for free and just told the csr to make sure that she points out on the proofs the areas that may not be what the designer wanted.
When I seen the email and the job was out and there was nothing I could to help because the saleman did not want to bring up the issue to make us look bad. TOO Late for that.
The next day I redid the videos and branded them for my self.

All of these things just make me think that I need to find a different industry. I know all indsutries have there own issues but I cant stand when you releaize where this is going to end up.

1 Like

I don’t think you need to find a different industry.
You just need to find a different company. Not that the issues will disappear completely, just someplace where they are handled better. I don’t know about where you are, but pre-press is in hot demand around here. The industry is “graying out” (people retiring with no one that wants to do the job to replace them.) Hang in there and look around before tossing in the towel.

©2020 Graphic Design Forum | Contact | Legal | Twitter | Facebook