CDes gets go-ahead

The Chartered Society of Designers has received Royal permission to grant the designation of Chartered Designer, thus allowing it to go ahead with its controversial plans for professional certification in design. Will you be applying?

The Chartered Society of Designers has received Royal permission to grant the designation of Chartered Designer, thus allowing it to go ahead with its controversial plans for professional certification in design. Will you be applying?

In February we reported on the CSD’s application to the UK Government to approve a system of professional certification for designers. That application has now been approved. According to a CSD statement today, “The Society is now able to award Chartered Designer status to those practicing in design and satisfying a level of competence determined by CSD. The new powers place the Society in the enviable position of not only setting standards for professional practice in design but also monitoring and regulating that practice.”

The announcement of the CSD’s plans caused considerable debate at the time, with many designers raising doubts concerning the way in which certification would we awarded, the criteria, the make-up of any panel assessing applications and even the point of such a system. Today the CSD says “as with all power there comes responsibility and the Society must now set to work determining the manner in which this power may be exercised for the benefit of the design profession, all who aspire to enter it and those who benefit from the provision of design.”

It is, apparently “anxious to consider the views of as wide a spectrum as possible before determining how it will set up, maintain and operate the register [of qualified designers]. The Society has a responsibility to ensure that any such register is sustainable and for the benefit of the profession as a whole whilst working also for the benefit of education, commerce and the public.” The CSD has now pledged to carry otu a lengthy period of consultation “with those inside and outside of the design sector before deciding and announcing how it proposes to set up and maintain the register of Chartered Designers. It is hoped that this consultation will be completed by the summer of 2012 following which a mechanism will be determined thus enabling pathways to Chartered Designer to be established later that year.”

More here

Read our original CDes story for some great debate on the issues surrounding professional certification, including a lengthy contribution from the CSD’s Frank Peters, here


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  • Jeremy Mulhare

    I’d be surprised if you can find half a dozen working designers who’ve even heard of the CSD.

  • AJS

    Ah, not sure about the logo! But I suppose the words “poisoned” and “chalice” come to mind. I believe it’s a good move. I think we’ll need to learn a few lessons from the Architectural equivalent though.

  • MR

    This is another, more officious attempt by established designers to keep design a closed shop. It’s too late. The new breed exist on the internet. They are already everywhere. Wake up.

  • It seems like an exclusive club, rather than granting assurance to prospective clients that the designer is of a certain quality. We prove our worth with our portfolios, not with a membership badge.

  • Pete

    I think this is fantastic news and long overdue. It should provide a means for buyers of design services to make judgements about ability. The graphic design market is flooded with low-quality ‘professionals’ which causes design fees to be pushed downwards. I’ll be first in the queue!

  • Tim

    Just sounds like another ridiculous thing for people to either boast of having, or make fun of others for not having. Certification is needed for other professions – ones that provide services that may be dangerous if not properly qualified – but is not needed for design. Design is entirely subjective – even “bad” design is liked by a lot of people – and suggesting that you need certification beyond that of the already over emphasised importance of a degree, is just going to further perpetuate the myth that you can’t be a “good designer” unless you have the pieces of paper to prove it, and that only a select few can dictate to the rest of the population what “good design” is.

  • I wrote my dissertation on the advantages and disadvantages of such a system: Seems like a good move to me. An ability to create a standard amongst the profession without forcing all designers to be a member.

  • I have to say that in my working life as a professional (typographic) print designer I’ve only ever come across one other designer who was an ‘out’ member of this rarefied society.

    I think that the idea that it is solely the CSD who are qualified to award professional certification in design is frankly a rubbish idea.

    The four years that I studied graphic and print design at college and my 30 years experience in the design and print industry presumably don’t count for anything unless my work is judged to be of a suitably high standard by this self appointed elite.

    If I choose not to give the CSD £180pa of my money to join their elitist little club, does this somehow mean that I’m a less professional designer than one of their members? No, it just means I don’t see any value in being a member of an elitist club, simple as that.

    CSD chief executive Frank Peters said that assessment of candidates will be done by “peer review of designers qualified in their field.” What qualification exactly will get you onto this panel? Membership of the CSD presumably!

    Let’s assume that this isn’t the case. How will the CSD find suitable assessors? Put simply, who assesses the assessors?

    I specialise in print design and therefore my knowledge of print production is almost as important as my creative ability. I know of at least one highly creative art director – works for a big west end agency, gets paid a vast salary – who knows absolutely bugger all about print production; he sends all his artwork to a repro house in RGB! On his salary I’m sure he’s a member of several exclusive clubs and probably the CSD too. Is he qualified to judge whether I’m a professional? In a word, no.

  • Mustafa

    This is a TERRIBLE idea. The Guardian just released an article about how the City industry capitalises on the desperation of students to get work by interning for free in 6 month rotations with some of the countries largest firms. To have to be subjected to an assessment by a collective body with essentially no qualification other than what I assume will be their reputation – can assert the authority to say whether another professional is qualified enough to work as a designer is pretty depressing. It essentially boils down to being judged by your peers whether or not you can work. Obviously this will create a negative hierarchy when it comes to sourcing clients – for those who choose not to go down the route of paying up to get a “seal of approval” from the design “establishment.” It negates the whole principle of going through 3-5 years of study to get a BA or MA – to be qualified as a professional. Why go to university and pay all those fees if you aren’t even certified to work as a profession – why not just become a competent designer by yourself, and just be assessed by the CSD and then begin working – save all that tuition fee money? Or will the CSD force all “professionals” to attain a BA or MA as well? RIDICULOUS.

  • Following the CSD’s wish to undertake a period of consultation with those inside and outside of the design sector regarding their Register of Chartered Designers, I have sent them the following email response:

    I’ve just read in Creative Review that the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) is intending to set up a scheme to recognise people working as designers by affording them the title of ‘Chartered Designer’.

    On your website, you you state, “The views of the membership of the design sector will be extremely important in influencing the outcome of this consultation and we would like to hear from you.” On this basis here are my thoughts on your proposals.

    I qualified as a designer in 1991 after finishing my three year City & Guilds 532 Certificate in Typographic Design for Print (distinction level pass) which was preceded by a City and Guilds City & Guilds Foundation Course in Art and Design (credit level pass).

    In the 20 years since then I have worked as a typographic print designer for a whole range of clients, both as an in-house employee, as a temporary contractor and on a self employed basis. In addition to this, I also have some 10 years experience under my belt as a junior designer and paste-up artist from before I fully qualified as a designer in 1991.

    I currently work for myself under the company name of Creative19.

    My professional working practices and ethics are based on a combination of the solid foundation in my craft learned at college, combined with the accumulated real life work experience that I have gained since this point. I keep what I do under constant review to ensure that I am working to whatever represents current best practice within the industry.

    I’m not currently a member of any professional design organisation.

    I did dabble with the idea of joining either the International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD) or the CSD some years ago. However I decided in the end not to join for three reasons:
    It would make very little difference in the way that clients perceive me as a designer. A lot of my work comes through word of mouth and recommendations. If I was consistently bad at what I do and how I do it, people simply wouldn’t continue to use me.
    I’m confident that the quality of my work, my professional working practices and my ethics* are up to scratch and I have no wish or need to have these picked over and apart by a non-elected, self appointed elite to gain membership of some club.
    In general and on principle, I don’t like the idea of exclusive clubs. By their very nature this kind of organisation is elitist and will often exclude people on the basis of prejudice and/or what are flimsy or non-existent reasons.
    *I think the CSD’s right to advise me on my business ethics is questionable. Currently the CSD are seeking to employ two degree qualified ‘interns’, a terms that has no basis in English law. Although the ‘interns’ will receive an allowance for lunch and travel expenses (London only) they will not be paid at all for their work and labour. Although this practice is widespread in the UK it is completely unethical and amounts to virtual slave labour.

    Who exactly are the people going to be who will ‘review me’. Who will pick them and on what basis? Who will determine the criteria for selection? Who will determine that they are qualified to act as a judging panel?

    I specialise in print design and therefore my knowledge of print production is almost as important as my creative ability. I know of at least one, highly creative, art director (works for a big West End agency, gets paid a stupidly vast salary) who knows absolutely bugger all about print reproduction. Whenever he needs to get some work done he sends the artwork to a repro house in RGB. They then do the real work to turn it into print ready artwork.

    Alternatively, perhaps one of the people who should assess my creative ability should be the nameless member of the Wolff Olins team who designed the 2012 Olympic logo? Widely ridiculed and derided as uninspiring, puerile mess and an artistic flop, after the animated film was shown on the news, Epilepsy Action received 22 reports of people having fits while watching the video. There were also other reports people vomiting and having migraines.

    Are either of these people qualified to judge whether I’m a professional? In a word, no.

    If you feel that there needs to be a professional register of designers, fine. However the qualification for inclusion on such a list should be the fact that I studied hard at college for four years to gain professional design qualifications and that I have worked in the industry for some 30 years. Not that I meet with the approval of some well connected idiots who happen to be in the right club but can’t actually design for toffee.

  • Taken from their website, The Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) “Is the professional body for designers and the authority on professional design practice.”

    They go on to state “The Society exists to promote concern for the sound principles of design in all areas in which design considerations apply, to further design practice and encourage the study of design techniques for the benefit of the community. In so doing, it seeks to secure and promote a professional body of designers and regulate and control their practice for the benefit of industry and the public.”

    And to kick off their “concern for sound principles” the CSD are looking for an intern to work for the next 6 months, without pay, in London:

    Utterly shameful.

  • Dan

    Alex, that is disgraceful. This idea is incredibly old-hat and elitist. Nobody cares about the CSD anyway, and the work of their members is questionable at best. We should spread the word about the unpaid internship because it is hypocrisy.

    Architecture is the only design field (and possibly product design) which needs officiation and ‘chartering’ because it is the only one which has the potential to end lives if practiced incorrectly. I am a graphic designer; we don’t need officiation because we can’t hurt people through malpractice. We can make things look terrible (and lots of us do) but graphic design is not dangerous in any physical sense. If it is, it’s as a tool for social movement and communicating messages that we may disagree with. This should be free and celebrated anyway, as it currently is.

    This is a great example of ‘old power’ focusing on old beurocratic models of capitalism and trying to hold on in an age in which traditional boundaries have already broken down.

  • I see a lot of potential here but I fear it will be squandered. More industries than ever recognise the potential and relevance of good design but at the other end of the scale it can be difficult for young designers to compete with people who use the same tools without any academic and/or working knowledge of design theory. This doesn’t always mean these young designers aren’t good enough to compete, more often the barrier is in educating the client. If this can help ease that burden then it has it my full support.

    My concern is that the CSD is currently a very small, insular and antiquated society. To make this work they have to listen to all of the professions they claim to represent and the modern needs of the businesses we participate in. The CSD should be using this new status and their consultation period to reinvent themselves for the 21st century and redefine their place in the design community. Simply having royal approval is not enough to affect the way modern Britain does business.

  • I totally agree with Alex and Dan here. The intern situation at the CSD is a complete and utter disgrace.

    I find it sick and pretty laughable that an organisation, which is attempting to set itself up as the arbiter of professional standards within our profession, is simultaneously content to exploit desperate young people and use them as unpaid slave labour for six months.

    How exactly do they justify this incredibly unethical position? I’d really like to see a journalist from CR get tough and ask them some direct questions about this because I think it’s a scandal.

    In terms of my own ethical standards, my company, Creative19 will never attempt to coerce or suggest to an employee that they work for no money, nor will we get involved in ‘zero hours’ contacts or any of the other shoddy practices that go on in UK business.

    I’m quite proud of the fact we give 7.5% of our profits to charity every year, (the same percentage as Ben & Jerry’s). We do this through an organisation called Kiva and I’d commend them to others who might be interested in following our example. There some more information here:

    Maybe when the CSD have managed to sort out their use of shameful use of dodgy business practices, I’ll be prepared to listen to them lecture me about my professionalism and ethics, but right now they can take a hike as far as I’m concerned.

  • jenny copland

    Good Lord! The logo!! Festival of Britain meets Soviet Constructivism… A heroic army of elite chartered designers march bravely towards a new dawn of status and acceptance, heads held high, big silly helmets gleaming in the sun, togas aflutter…


  • It is important that we have all views on this matter so thanks to CR for the article, links and comments facility once again.

    Happy to provide info, assistance and clarification to the discussion in response to the string (in comment order) as follows:

    To clarify – CDes will not be used. Chartered Designer will be the designation that is used and is a registered trademark of CSD.

    JM – Find more than half a dozen on Find-a-Designer

    AJS – We will do our best on behalf of the profession to neutralise any poisoned chalice and have a good dialogue (which we already do) with architecture and other professions as to lessons and guidance in this initiative. After all, they all started somewhere as we are now doing.

    MR – Chartered Designer will be open to all comers, existing and future design disciplines, and is inclusive rather than a closed shop. Also pathways are being developed with courses for new entrants so it is not just for ‘established’ designers or those who ‘exist on the internet’ whatever that means.

    Tim – Most designers seem to want to personally accompany their portfolio and so there appears to be more to it than that. Many also seem to list their awards, clients, credential, etc. presumably to promote themselves and so not just the portfolio.

    CSD considers design to be more than subjective but come to that so does the whole of design education, most designers and I suspect even some clients. And – design services can prove ‘dangerous’ ask your PI insurer. Interior/Exhibition design involves structures, services, etc. Product designers are responsible for electrical or pharmaceutical products. Think transport design, trains, cars, aircraft, marine, domestic products, machines, etc. Instruction, operating and safety manuals, pharmaceutical packaging all produced by graphic designers.

    MP – 4 years and 30 years experience would count for a lot towards both CSD membership and chartered status and in fact is built into our membership assessment criteria. Of course this would need qualifying as with any submission to any organsiation.

    Totally agree – you do not need to pay for CSD membership – it is just a choice that some 3,000 designers currently exercise and thousands more have done over 80 years.

    Yes – peer review will be by CSD members as it is a CSD initiative and most are likely to have a qualification and experience like yourself which counts for a lot as you say. The assessment process is also very robust and stringent as you would expect from a professional body that accredits educational courses also.

    For CSD membership and especially chartered status in graphic design you will need to be more than just creative and have a knowledge of print production. There is more to it than that.

    Mustafa – the CSD qualification derives from our charter and status as granted by the Queen and thus parliament. It is based on what we have done which is indeed our reputation and brand. We are not and will not be saying someone is qualified or not to work as a designer – we will be saying whether someone is qualified or not to be a Chartered Designer or member of CSD.

    Compared to the annual fees for being assessed or qualified for a BA or MA our fees seem quite low. However, you do not need to have a design education to become a member of CSD and this will not be a barrier to chartered status either.

    The Society recognises all routes to becoming a designer knowing that some may not be lucky enough to afford or are able to undertake education FE, HE, City & Guilds whatever. That is why we assess for membership which is far more inclusive and there is no prejudice practiced as you would expect from a charity, although we do prefer designers. There is also a membership category for all levels of competence.

    CSD is a ‘professional body’ and does not exist to find work for people. We enable by ongoing support for the profession.

    ASZ – not sure how you know what we pay interns as we have not published or advertised a figure as it is negotiated depending on the applicant. Rest assured we don’t do exploitation of anyone.

    Dan – see MP’s comments (2 up) as to 2012 logo/epilepsy, graphic design and hurting people.

    CM – totally agree as to consultation. Graphic design (this site) is just one of some 40 or more design activities that are represented by CSD. We have consulted over 10 years on this and that is why it has been introduced together with other initiatives. Royal approval is in effect government approval as this is a constitutional monarchy but we need design and its related sectors buy-in both nationally and internationally. Reassuringly we have this which is why we were granted the power to set up the register – now we need to implement it.

    JC – some interesting analogies – others like it. Guess we have returned to the subjective comment.

    For further info on all matters or email

  • Aleks Marinkovic

    Is this a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist?

    If a designer doesn’t deliver he doesn’t get work, simple.

    If the argument for this is about support for the designer, then my experience with the CSD over my 25 year career shows them to be woefully inadequate in this respect also.

  • Matt Cooper

    It seems to me that a lot of the dissenting views here have equated the process of becoming a chartered designer to that of getting a driving licence.

    Of course designers will continue to work and get paid for jobs whether they have such qualification or not, the important factor here is accountability. There are many, many clients out there who need to satisfy higher and higher thresholds for accountability as part of the commissioning of design jobs and if such a charter would help in this process then I see no reason for our industry to reject it.

    The job here for the CSD is two fold: firstly to build up rigorous standards that react to the changing nature of the design landscape to judge prospective members by, and secondly to communicate the new standard to the rest of the world (i.e. future clients), so that it can become a useful tool to help mediate the conversation between designers and the rest of the world.

    Both of these tasks are complex and challenging to say the least, but perhaps we should give them a chance to set their stall out before launching off into stories of epilepsy and enforced BAs.

    One thing is abundantly clear though, if they don’t rapidly start to communicate their ideas and find a voice in our already rowdy community then the whole thing might evaporate all together, which would be a great shame.

    p.s. Anyone who doesn’t think that bad graphic design can’t potentially harm its users is woefully misguided.

  • Dave Oscroft

    CSD or no CSD, we still have to pay the bills and I doubt whether commercial clients who help us do this will give a flying fuck whether we have a few letters in the signature of our email.

    Will it win you a pitch? Will it make make your work look better?

    I think t’s a bit late for this kind of carry on: the more access to technology we have the more the industry becomes (for beter or worse) democratized.

  • Matt Cooper

    ¶ I did actually incluide paragraph breaks in my previous reply, the site seems to have stripped them out. Which makes me sound like i’m talking in a stream of consciousness.

    ¶ It slightly diminishes my thoughts unfortunately.

  • Thanks for posting a pretty thorough response from Frank Peters regarding some of the various points that people have made on this subject.

    Sadly Frank either forgot, or maybe just chose not to refer to the fact that the CSD is looking for two interns and enlighten us as to just what he thinks about his esteemed organisation seeking to exploit desperate young people and use them as unpaid slave labour for six months.

    Maybe Frank feels that there is no case to answer here? Or maybe he’s just not that fussed about that particular bit of business ethics? Pity really. I guess the CSD still has a way to go regarding business ethics in this area, and consequently a long way to go before they can regard themselves as the arbiter of ethics within the industry.

    Put simply Frank, get your own house in order then seek to advise us about ours.

  • MP – it was referred to but for your assistance here it is again:

    ASZ – not sure how you know what we pay interns as we have not published or advertised a figure as it is negotiated depending on the applicant. Rest assured we don’t do exploitation of anyone.

  • ed

    @ Dave Oscroft

    Having worked for clients who sign emails ‘John Smith FD BSc MBa’ I can certainly see the aesthetic value of CSD in having them not speak to me like someone who does colouring in all day.

    We’re not all lucky enough to work for enlightened design-aware clients, and (while I may not partake personally) I see no reason why a Royally/Governmentally approved chartered status isn’t well deserved by anyone who meets the criteria.

    Portfolio or no portfolio, it’d certainly help give some clout when dealing with business and qualification minded clients.

  • If the internships at CSD are offering at least the National Minimum Wage, why doesn’t the advert say so?

    The link on the main page states “The Society is offering two internships at an exciting point in its history. An allowance will be paid to the successful internees”. If the position is indeed paid, calling this an ‘allowance’ is a very unusual way of putting it.

    The advert itself reads “Travel expenses will be covered within London and there will be an allowance for lunch”, which is not the same as saying the salary will be “negotiated depending on the applicant”. The advert suggests quite the opposite; that the position is, like the majority of design internships, unpaid save a for a bit of sandwich money and Tube fare.

  • Frank Peters FCSD “Rest assured we don’t do exploitation of anyone.”

    CSD website “Travel expenses will be covered within London and there will be an allowance for lunch.”

    Just to explain Frank, because you/the CSD clearly don’t get it, the national minimum wage in the UK for workers aged 21 or over is £6.08. This rate of pay is the minimum amount per hour that workers in the UK are entitled to be paid.

    Here’s a link if you need a bit more info;

    If you’re not paying this rate to people who are working for you, (and based on the job specifications that are on your website you are making every attempt to get people who are competent and suitably qualified) then you are exploiting people. It really is as simple as that.

    Further protestations of, “we don’t do exploitation’ really won’t wash any more. Get it sorted then maybe we’ll listen to the lectures about professionalism.

  • @ ed – exactly – unlike some professions designers do not need to belong to a professional body to practice – therefore it is a choice – some will and some will not as you say. This is really about giving credibility to what we do as professionals and communicating it to clients, who as you say may not be enlightened, in a language they will understand – ie a chartered status.

    What we are doing is offering the profession a choice – and as part of our charitable remit we are offering that choice to all those in the design profession – whether members of CSD or not. The discussions over the coming months (on this site and elsewhere) will assist us to establish the mechanism for this.

    Even those who do not wish to apply to the register will benefit in that ‘designers’ will have a professional ‘chartered’ status that will enhance a clients view of the sector – bringing design in line with other professions.

    @MP – you will also note that apprentices get just £2.60. Just to close as this discussion is about Chartered Designer status and we want to hear views about that – . Those who work for charities in a voluntary capacity receive no payment. The Society is grateful to those who actually work unpaid for CSD in various capacities both full and part time.

  • I appreciate the fact that you want to hear more about your little schemette but first you really have to sort out the CSD’s ethics regarding unpaid employment – and stop trying to defend your shoddy practice of trying to get people to work for you for free in every response that you post.

    The apprentice rate should really have nothing to do with the kind of people that you’re seeking for your intern positions because you want skilled graduates. There again, you could, like so many other nasty companies, demand experience and knowledge to get the positions filled by high calibre candidates, then claim that the person is an ‘apprentice’ so that you can pay them a lower rate of pay. A pretty shoddy practice, but I guess that at least you’d be paying them something.

    Only you’re not looking to pay them the apprentice rate are you Frank? You’re looking to pay them, well, nothing, (aside of a luncheon voucher and their travelcard for the day).

    And that’s the point that you seem unable to grasp.

    And this is why you’re wrong.

    And this is why I struggle to see how you qualify as an organisation to advise me or any other designer on ‘ethics’.

  • Patrick Nugent

    There is one issue not discussed in the above exchanges and it is this: in the future a qualification required for any design work commissioned by any body spending public money maybe that all design applicants should be Chartered. Also design education policy makers may also be required to be Chartered. I’m not saying I applaud this (though I am a Fellow of the CSD), but is a fact of our increasingly over-regulated lives that such policies get enacted.

    Design has always had a freewheeling history, even more in these days of computers and the internet – and long may it continue. However design is not valued per se these days as many people feel they can do it themselves on their computers, hence many of the design based catastrophes seen around. I don’t really mind (except that the pool of potential work for designers is diminished), it may be that in the future these Comic Sans based, usually, items will be cherished in the same way of ‘non-designed’ printed ephemera of the past as being quaint and charming. However, for all its faults the CSD does aspire to maintain high design standards in the profession as a whole.

    I do heartily agree with Michael and Alex about internships. They are an abomination and should be outlawed. It is slave labour with a fancy name. If a company has work to do it should pay someone to do it. Because of the practice of internships my own industry (book publishing) is reverting to how it was in the early 70s when I first joined it, as a sort of leisure activity for the sons and daughters of the wealthy. A class action would seem a good idea.

    For many years I was creative director of a publishing company and we had the policy of genuine ‘work experience’ for students at school or college for two or three weeks every year, but we also had the policy of taking on bona fide graduate trainees for a full-time job every couple of years or so. These were paid properly and trained on the job.

    As a Fellow of the CSD, I will lobby strongly for the policy of internships at the Society to be abolished forthwith.

  • afatpaul

    [comment deleted by moderator, we cannot publish anonymous accusations against organisations and/or individuals in the comments section of the blog.]

  • afatpaul

    Then why don’t Creative Review/you write a FACTUAL article with the truth, reflecting both sides of the argument ?

  • jack

    There were just 36 votes for the introduction of ‘Chartered Designer’ at the CSD meeting that has brought this to fruition.