The graphic engineer
I have thought for some time that graphic design is closer to engineering than it is to art.
We refer to "the creative" – but creativity is not the right word for what we do.
Lateral thinking comes into it, yes, as does ingenuity – frequently. But aesthetics are simply the tools of our engineering – and we use them to create better and more effective marketing communications. I inwardly shrivel at the idea of producing a piece of work simply because “it looks good”. To me, that is an insult to the people whose hard work put the marketing budget at your disposal.
The primary function of the designer should be to engineer a solution that answers all the requirements of the brief – as far as possible. The aesthetic will lead on from there – and generally be informed by necessity. It's always pleasing if, at the end of the day, the client likes what you've done – but actually it's far more important that their target audience responds to it.
My time in manufacturing helped me to appreciate the importance of taking a marketing budget seriously and making it work hard. Watching workers on a production line will do that for you.
Thinking like an engineer doesn't diminish the design process at all – I believe it hones it, tightens it up. It reminds us of the purpose of our job – to produce a solution that delivers as effectively as possible.