Yesterday while walking back to my office from lunch, I was trailing two individuals and couldn’t help but overhear part of their conversation. I wasn’t trying to eves drop, we were in a narrow hallway and they were talking loudly. Since I was about 10 feet behind them, I overheard what they were saying.
The conversation was basically about corporate culture and how “Creatives” are misunderstood by “Suits”, and so on. At one point one of the two said, “I don’t have to know how to spell, or be good at math, I’m on the creative staff. That is what the suits are for”. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, but as the two continued talking it became rather apparent that this guy was serious about what he said. At this point the hallway opened up by the corporate cafe and the two trailed off in a different direction so I no longer could hear them. In hind sight I wish I would have spoken up, and asked them to explain their point of view in a bit more detail. As someone who has been both on the boards and in design management, I have to say I don’t get this point of view at all.
I have been in the design industry since the age of 16. One of my first jobs was doing paste up, and cutting Rubylith for a small family owned graphic design shop that lived in someone’s basement studio. Maybe because I started my career in a time before computers spell checked everything, and calculators eliminated the need for basic math skills is why I don’t get this. All I know is, if you want to be taken seriously by your peers, coworkers, and clients, spelling, grammar and math, should be part of your “Design Toolkit”.
As a designer part of your job it to cohesively express your ideas to clients. This could be through a verbal pitch or a written brief. It could be to an internal department or an external client. Who ever it is, you are judged as much by your ability to verbalize as your ability to design. If you can’t articulate the reasoning behind the choices you make as a designer, why should your client trust you? This is part of being a professional, and whether you like it or not, it is part of your job as a designer. Saying you don’t have to have these basic skills is to a point arrogant. It is a dismissive act that reads like, “I’m such a good designer I don’t have to do that anymore”.
I am fully aware that advanced English and Math are not required for a degree in Design or Fine Art. I am also aware that English 101 is, and so is Math. I am also aware that many people loath, or are intimidated by both the subjects for what ever reason, but at the end of the day failing to have a basic comprehension of these skills is a detriment to your career in the long run. I don’t care how good your skills are as a designer. If you can’t put a sentence together with correct grammar and spelling, or do basic math, success is going to be an uphill battle.
At the end of the day, you are a professional designer. That means you must have professional skills, and that is more than knowing color theory, typography, layout, composition, balance, etc. It means knowing how to spell, punctuate, add, subtract, divide and multiply.