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

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.

  • Crustless

    I do not like this. I am young designer that recently graduated and started my first job. I feel confident that i could pass the certification but i am still against this.

    This part in particular offends me:

    “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.”

    I dont see how the government has the right to write our contacts or decide what we charge for work.

    • designcouch

      Check your calendar, bud. It’s April 1st.

      • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Walter Apai

        Shhh… :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/emosewamai Andrew Hersh

    you got me

    i was slamming things around my office and the people i work with thought i had gone insane

    i was threatening to punch a baby

    • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

      Isn’t that a normal Monday for all of us?

      • Andrew Hersh

        I’ll admit, while I never actually get around to punching a baby… the threats generally peak around 9:45am and taper off to a dull, “I swear I’m going to throw something,” around noon.

  • designcouch

    Just about had a heart attack until I looked at the calendar. Not that I couldn’t pass the certification, but this would be a major govt over-step if it were true.

  • http://twitter.com/Karkof Duncan Mckenna

    Stay at home. Remain calm. Turn off the internet for 24 hours.

    • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

      Sage advice!

  • Goran Komar

    Although I’m not an American citizen this is kind of exciting and long awaited. Where I live there won’t be a law like this for some time but when we finally catch up I’ll open that special bottle of wine.

    It pains me to see what 12+ year old nephews can do to destroy a company image and this small business owner should ask himself why he is small. Not saying it’s all on the artsy design stuff (which is another painful description of our profession) but if you make such decisions you’ll probably never gonna grow your business.

    As for the text I’m amazed with the amount of unnamed sources. :)

    • designcouch

      For serious? Please tell me you don’t think this article was legit, and that you actually think it’s a good idea. Sarcasm is hard to pick up on in written form, but this is ridiculous (it was an April Fools article).

      • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

        Maybe… maybe not… possibly.

  • Eric Arrington

    What does this mean for current designers working for me who have had zero formal education but are great designers?

    Also 95% of the educators in higher education teaching web design are CLUELESS and now they are deciding who gets certified and who doesnt?

    Sounds like a great idea to me…

    • http://www.facebook.com/chariti Chariti Canny


  • http://twitter.com/andreortiz Andre Ortiz

    I hope this is a joke.

  • quacknduck

    30 plus years designing marcom materials. still working. This is a stupid idea, ranks right along with“Best Practices”, i.e. “I can’t do the work but I can pass a test based on some outside standard and that outside standard is how YOU are to judge me, not by my client’s bottom line.

    Thi siis a product of petty small minded people

    • designcouch

      Or it’s an April Fools article. You fell for it. Calm down. :D

  • http://twitter.com/Fanatical_G Charles

    I have a lot of mixed feelings, maybe this is the right way to go, freelance graphic design is arduous work and if some sort of certification is in place it might do away with the need to question why we charge what we charge.

  • http://twitter.com/iKeithW Keith Weiss

    I hope this article is an April Fool’s joke. Otherwise, big sad panda.

  • http://twitter.com/NateCornelius Nate Cornelius

    April Fools!

  • Beth Hastings

    April Fools, right?

  • jerkified

    This is a shitty article. I think it’s a shitty idea. Design is subjective. The only good thing would be that people who pay their family members shitty amounts of money for design work will have to actually choke up a dime to make it worth the designers time. All the people who are quoted in this article sound like they will be included in destroying the design world. thanks guys. FU.

  • designcouch

    If anyone needs any further proof that this article is a complete joke, LOOK AT THE AUTHOR’S BIO.

    • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

      I’m not sure how to take that.

      • designcouch

        Take it as it was intended. Your bio includes pubs like MAD and Nickelodeon. Hence you might just have a knack for humor…

      • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

        I know. Just having a little fun with you. ;)

      • designcouch

        **smacks forehead** I should have known :) Irony abounds!

  • http://twitter.com/pixellingo Mr. JW

    Made me bottom lip quiver for a minute there. Aww you guys. *waving finger*

  • thinkhmm

    Well done, Webdesigner Depot, well done. Thanks for the laughs!

  • Daniel Kemble

    I have one question that rings in my head. I’m not a designer, I’m a work in sales and project management for a small Web Design Firm, we have to compete regularly with foreign based design firms who undercut us simply because $300 US is alot more to them than it is to us. Wouldn’t this law just make it more enticing for companies to hire someone in outside the US?

    • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

      No, because there’s a death penalty for using foreign labor.

  • http://twitter.com/treeslit Von2

    Sweet Jesus I hope this is a April fools joke. I honestly doubt a congressman would be that idiotic and cold :-/

    • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

      You doubt the idiocy and coldness of politicians? What planet do you hail from?

  • ticked

    I have been a graphic designer for 25 years…does this mean I am now not qualified to do my job anymore? Or I have to add to my 7+ years of education to get certified?….not happy

  • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

    Well, it was quite a day filled with laughs, tears and mini-strokes at this years April Fool’s Day pranks. There were promises, aside from this article, of the end of Youtube, charging for tweets containing vowels, Google smells app, glass bottom airplanes and other hilarity.

    This article, however, was written so no one could tell if it was serious or not. It took a long time for those who read it to find out it was a prank and the numerous tweets were just as frightened, enthused and confused. It was fascinating to see the major designer organizations fall over each other trying to scream that this was a prank and that they would have been involved in any law such as this. Sadly, they often are not.

    Going live this Wednesday is a serious, true article about a question these organizations have discussed for decades; should creatives be certified or unionized? I swear, this one is real and just as frightening, if not more because it is true.

    Happy April Fool’s Day, dear readers. Think of this as a roller coaster ride in the comfort of your office or studio. You may have soiled your knickers a bit but you didn’t have to stand on line for hours. ;-)

    BTW… if you missed the last April Fool’s Day article on WDD, check it out. It’s still scary! http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2012/04/our-favorite-tweets-of-the-week-mar-26-apr-1-2012/

  • bgbs

    Where do I apply for the review committee? Because I want to make sure I’m the only design company left standing in my state to get all the work possible.

    • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

      They’re holding interviews at the town hall in Gullibleville. Tell them Abe Lincoln sent you.

  • http://www.devdigital.com/ Mitch Ballard

    I think its a big prank from US govt.

    • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

      You could be right. Buy more guns, just in case.

  • http://www.talentsfromindia.com/hire-android-programmer-developer.html Olivia Brown


  • Guest

    Who’s the idiot that allowed the secretary to hire her relative? Government needs to take responsibility for hiring professionals, not amateurs.

    • http://twitter.com/Speider Speider Schneider

      That person was killed when this article aired… on April 1st.

  • http://twitter.com/lanceixd Jason Lance

    Oh man, I read it on the 2nd when my guard was down. Nice one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/julius.cirwithian Julius Cirwithian

    I was starting to question whether I should keep my citizenship.

  • http://www.nwidesigns.com Kevin Morrison

    Good one but we should not be giving the idiots in government any stupid ideas. They would first have to ensure that the course study kept up with current standards which in the two so called top notch schools I went to in the last 4 don’t even have instructors that know the material. While it would weed out the trash that I have to fix for unsuspecting clients, this would not be a practical solution to the problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nils-Lindstrom/100000935990631 Nils Lindstrom

    Man! I just about threw a brick at my monitor upon reading this. Glad I read to the very end. Funny but cruel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Allen-Gingrich/1435959906 Allen Gingrich

    This is still hilarious 4 days later. I literally saw the future of my web design studio http://ideasandpixels.com flash before my eyes. Haha! And “Speider”? Double ha!

  • http://www.facebook.com/watsonink Chris Watson

    Well, if they regulate designers like Architects, it might be easier to get a qualified designer than someone that is saying they are and are horrible. Everybody thinks they are a designer and templates are not helping the situation. I say I am for it. Nobody should have any issues if they can back up what they say they can do. I know too many people that say they are designers and they don’t know anything.

  • joe smith

    Yeah good luck trying to “control” art & design!

  • John Allred

    It’s really a great post. Here a lots of useful insights. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      John, if you check the original publish date you’ll see it’s an old April Fools joke :)