In light of what we discussed on Wednesday both in the group meeting and seminar I wanted to collect together all the things I would like to see in a professional body for visual communicators. This is very much what I personally would like to see in a professional body so not everyone will agree. It is also very much a draft, not exhaustive and as a professional body is quite a pragmatic thing to propose I wanted to be idealistic in what I think its remit and purpose should be. I am referring to it as a constitution (very American) for want of a better word and to avoid calling it a manifesto. There are lots of grey edges to some of the statements as we discussed as a group but I wanted to make some statements based on general principles initially.
Starting with the basics I would want the body to:
Be Democratic — open to all visual communicators who can demonstrate their status as a visual communicator to a level of competency. I think by making it inclusive not an elitist club would help make it different from the some of the current organisations we have now. I think it should also be transparent in its behaviour and accountable to its members.
Be Not for profit — ideally membership would be free, and the body could either have charitable status or be funded publically or by trusts or arts funding. This may however raise issues of priorities/agendas and interests. Alternatively membership fees should be minimal and only cover costs. (This would obviously need looking at in more detail if it were to become a reality)
Create and maintain standards – through its membership selection via a peer review panel (that are democratically elected?) that demonstrates competency and technical ability through a number of years of professional practice or an accredited course plus professional practice. I did also think that maybe there should be a ‘junior’ membership for students, that is not certified, as they would otherwise miss out on the benefits of membership.
Promote the understanding and appreciation of the industry and what we do as designers through:
A regular journal, which would be not just for members but available to buy publicly and be available in schools as well as universities and colleges.
Becoming a consultant to the government for how visual communication is taught in schools and what provision is included in the national curriculum for it. It could even run its own course for primary and secondary teachers about how to teach design.
An awards scheme, I’m thinking of a graphics equivalent of the Sterling prize. It would obviously only be respected as much as the body who was awarding it.
Support for students for instance, through a number of bursaries, particularly at postgraduate level to replace the Arts and Humanities research council ones. It could also offer talks, seminars and workshops for students although a lot of places do this already.
A permanent building which could house and showcase a range of exhibitions from small to high profile exhibitions, this could also incorporate space for students to use for their end of year shows. It could become the primary place in the country to showcase visual communication and house a permanent archive of visual communication.
To produce best practice guidance for a whole range of issues such as accessibility in print and on screen, legibility and readability, signage systems, designing for children, adults and old people and partially sighted, blind and disabled people. These could exist as working documents that could be updated to stay up to date with research.
It could also commission visual communication research projects and work with universities and other institutions for these.
Regular program of Continued Professional Development seminars. Architects get these why don’t designers. These could include technological, cultural and industry developments and should also be available through their website to make them accessible to all members.
To have an annual conference and generally create an arena for debate and discourse about design and issues facing the industry through talks, a blog/website/discussion board and their journal.
Be a central resource for design related issues and guidance, for example Intellectual property, which could include a resource of IP laws and a register of IP lawyers. It could also address sustainability issues with register of FSC etc accredited printers and paper manufacturers. This could be done through their website. It could also have a reference library in its building and a bookshop.
A ethics committee, made up of non-designers as well as designers to address ethical issues in design (?)
To lobby other industries reduce or stop the practice of free pitching and free competitions and maybe produce a set of guidelines for businesses on minimum payment for pitches
As Ben mentioned it could also have a company blacklist of those who persistently don’t pay for pitches, hold free competitions or don’t respect IP law.
It could lobby/work with the government & other public organisations to get effective visual communication higher up the agenda in public projects and major public institutions and get designers on board at earlier stages in public projects.
It could also work at creating a dialogue between the public, government, business and designers to create better understanding and recognition of visual communication and for designers, a better understanding of the needs of their users. Although in practical terms I have not yet worked out how this would happen.
To try and do something about unpaid internships, this is a difficult area because it would need support from both the industry and from the government and recognition and support by businesses of the true cost (in paid work hours) of design.
Our professional body would of course need an identity, badges, an iphone app and maybe capes.
Like I said I’m being a bit idealist.
This list is not exhaustive, so please add to it or disagree with what I have put forward initially. Many of these things already exist and but it would be good to have them all in one place.