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The UK’s Chartered Society of Designers wants to create a system of professional certification for designers. Would you want to take part?

The Chartered Society of Designers has filed an application to the UK Government to approve a system of professional certification for designers. A much-needed step toward elevating design’s status? Or an expensive irrelevance?

As our sister title Design Week reported, the Chartered Society of Designers has applied to the UK’s Privy Council to allow it and other professional bodies to be entitled to assess and award designers with ‘CDes’ chartered status. Designers would then join the ranks of other ‘chartered’ professionals, such as accountants, surveyors and engineers.

How will it work? “To gain the CDes credential, designers would be assessed on their professionalism, skills, knowledge and creativity, the last of which would be gauged ‘much in the same way that degree courses manage to appraise creativity’, says CSD chief executive Frank Peters,” Design Week reports.

So, would the design profession in the UK benefit from such a scheme? Peters says that its aim is to raise the status of design as a profession. For graphic designers in particular this remains an issue – witness the recent furore over a Times article on the NHS 60th anniversary identity in which Tory MP Greg Hands stated “Surely adding two digits doesn’t need to be outsourced at all. Civil servants can do this themselves. Modern graphic design packages surely allow anyone with an average brain to design something as good as, or better than, what we see in front of us here.”

Graphic design is not accorded the respect that its practitioners believe it deserves, but would adding the letters CDes after your name solve this?


Some points for:

*Other professions are accorded status at least in part through a commitment to providing a level of service that is guaranteed by their chartered status. Graphic design could benefit similarly

*By acting now, designers can take responsibility into their own hands before the UK government does it for them. In a lengthy reply on Davidthedesigner’s blog, Peters raises this, pointing out that the Government has recently sought to licence estate agents and landlords: could designers be next?

*It will enhance the sense of community, bringing together a disparate occupation

*It will distance ‘proper’ designers from cut-price, ‘knock out a logo for £50’ merchants – graphic design will no longer be something that ‘anyone’ can do.


Some points against:

*Designers may not trust the assessment criteria and process

*Clients won’t care about it

*It will load extra cost onto already stretched businesses

*It will make design too exclusive. Some of the most interesting designers did not originally take formal design qualifications – Erik Spiekermann, for example, studied art history as his first degree, Michael Wolff was an architect, Adrian Shaughnessy describes himself as a ‘self-taught’ graphic designer. If CDes status insists on a graphic design degree will it exclude some of our more original thinkers?

*Being ‘certified’ is just not very cool. This latter point may sound frivolous but there are very many small design practices who will look on the idea of ‘certification’ with horror. Designers are not natural ‘joiners’ and may prefer to try to raise the status of what they do through a less prescriptive, formal approach.

UPDATE: In a lengthy contribution in the comments section, CSD chief executive Frank Peters has clarified some points. CDes would not be exclusive to CSD members, he says. Therefore it is not, as some have suggested, just a means of recruiting more members for the organisation. CDes will accredit a range of competencies, creativity being just one. Assessment would be done by “peer review of designers qualified in their field.” There will be no insistence on any degree in any discipline: “a set of competencies need to be demonstrated – how designers come about those competencies is up to them.”


Peters says in the Design Week piece that the Privy Council should reach a decision within three months.

What we want to know is what you think of the idea? Do you see the benefit of being a CDes?

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