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Certifications for U.S. designers to become law in 2015

By Speider Schneider Posted Apr. 01, 2013 Reading time: 4 minutes

The much talked about step of creating professional certification for graphic/web designers looks like it will become a reality in a little more than a year. Having passed the U.S. Senate as a rider to a larger work rights bill, the measure is expected to easily pass the House of Representatives as well as having President Obama sign it into law.

The bill, originally created as a stand-alone measure was co-sponsored by Democratic New York Senator, “Buck” Schlumer and Republican Texas Senator, R. Fredrick Bruz, was intended to help regulate an industry many see as being one of the hopes for the United States to lead the future of technology innovation in the world.

The bill, which was originally part of the right-to-work law, was attached to H. Res. 66 — (considered as privileged matter in committee). Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 273) to eliminate the 2013 statutory pay adjustment for Federal employees, and for other purposes.

“It was fortuitous that this bill became a rider to a bill that is sure to pass,” said Senator Schlumer. “No one, ” he continued, “would give a damn about designers but the fact is, the internet and encouraging industry innovations such as Facebook may be the only hope for the United States in a global economy. This bill will assure that these artsy-types keep going to art school and learning this web stuff. It’s the one thing Walmart can’t manufacture in China and stick on a shelf for their own profit.”

Senator Bruz offered a different view on his support of the bill. “We just spent $250,000 on a web site for the state and it’s filled with animated dancing steer with cowboy hats and weird comic book type and it just looks ridiculous. We kept meeting with the designer, who’s a relative of my secretary and she assured me that she would have plenty of time after her shift at the convenience store, and she could design a site that shows the majesty and history of the great state of Texas.” He closed by saying, “when I showed it to this guy who does actual web sites for a living, he laughed and told me of the problem with how art schools give degrees to anyone with a fist full of cash and how no other profession would allow untrained individuals to practice their craft. That’s when I said we need to do something about this problem.”

 

What the law means to designers

The bill itself, translated into layperson’s terms, “requires all individuals to complete at least 100 credits of state-certified course work in a recognized institution of higher learning… submit a portfolio of work for review by a committee to be comprised of six educators and six business people to be chosen by said educators, who will meet twice annually (June and January) to decide on certification.”

There will also be a government supplied contract and invoices that all certified designers must use for all professional projects as well as pay scales, depending on the level assigned a designer under the previous rules of crafts guilds.

“We aren’t shutting out beginners, by all means,” claimed Schlumer. “We have made apprentice provision levels for recent graduates. It’s just that that level won’t last more than three years before a review can be held to move deserving individuals to the next level of Journeyperson and a higher pay level. Yes, some people will fail,” added the senator, “Professionals who know how to work will be rewarded and artsy-types who sit around coffee shops talking about design but not actually practicing their craft will have to find work serving coffee at those shops.”

Industry insiders had mixed feelings at the announcement of the news: “Naturally, we are happy at the recognition that designers are professionals,” said a source from a large design firm in New York City who declined to be identified. “But, there are going to be a lot of angry people who will feel excluded, not to mention design organizations, publishers of design publications, art schools and some people themselves who may not measure up in the eyes of whoever the certification process uses to choose which individuals become certified and who does not.”

 

Is there a downside?

Spokespeople for several design organizations claim that certification, although explored and supported by the very same organizations for many years, doesn’t look as good now that it’s a reality. “There are some factors we never thought of when discussing this for all of those years,” an unnamed source told the New York Times in an interview for the article, “Designers Get Licensed.”

“90% of our members are… not as professional as others,” admitted the source. “In fact, if only 10% of our working members are certified, we’ll either lose too much of our funding to keep functioning or have to find a ‘design hopeful’ category for those who will never be talented enough to make a living as a designer.”

An unnamed spokesperson for F+U, Inc. publications, which specializes in Design-centric books, magazines and web sites wasn’t as calm as others at the certification news: “Our main customer is the person with no talent,” screamed the spokesperson. “No one who is actually working in the industry cares about what we publish, so you’re telling me that in two years we’re out of business? We need people hopeful that one day someone will hire them freelance or they will become the next Milton Glaser!”

*Editor’s note: In 2005, F+U, Inc. publications was sued by Mr. Glaser to cease and desist from the tagline in their magazine: “read this magazine and you’ll be the next Milton Glaser.”

“As a professional designer, it’s my duty to go to design events and critique other designers’ work and tell them what problems they have in being a designer,” commented a source who declined to be named, on a design chat board. “I love design,” they continued, “I attend every design event, buy every design publication, own the most expensive computer and update to all of the latest design software as soon as it comes out and have been doing so for the past twelve years! Under these new rules, I won’t be certified just because I haven’t actually done any design work, except for that postcard for the rock band down the street and was paid in weed.”

One small business owner also aired his displeasure at the new certification and ability to practice law: “Whenever I need that artsy design stuff, I just hire my nephew and throw him $20 or so. Now I have to pay more and take away an income from my 12 year-old nephew? What is this… the Soviet Union… or is it China? I don’t remember but one of those communist countries.”

 

Update: Thanks for all your great comments! This article is of course an April Fools piece, but we hope it raised some interesting points. Look out for a great piece written by Speider — from a more serious position — later this week.

 

Are you for or against certification? How do you think this law will affect you? Let us know in the comments.

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