Steven Heller | Essays

How You Can Tell If You Are An Old Fogey Designer

Not to be maudlin or a downer, but as the years pass and my horizon gets closer in view, I run the inevitable risk of becoming either an eminence grise or old fogey. The former is more or less a person who exercises influence and dispenses wisdom in a certain field, like graphic design, but is no longer as active as in earlier years. The latter is an old (or young) overly conservative person, who complains about the state of the art. Of course, these two are not the only classifications as designers move on in years. Many—and you know who you are—are extraodinarily creative and active in the later ages, sometimes doing the best work of your lives. But for those of you who are not exactly sure about your status here is a little quiz that will, within a certain margin of error, determine levels of old fogey-hood.
  1. If you use the term “old fogey” you probably are one. More contemporary words for indicating length of practice are “veteran,” “maestro,” “expert,” “old dude,” “old school,” “gramps,” and others.

  2. If when asked if you are on or do you engage in social media and your immediate response is “Are you kidding, it's a waste of time” or worse “What’s social media?” that is a dead old fogey give-away.”

  3. If indeed you use Twitter, not using hashtags signals an old fogey. If you are on Instagram, not providing a title or quip, is old school. If you are not concerned about the number of followers, that’s also a clue. But if you’re on Facebook, showing pictures of your great grandchild is a sign of creeping fogeyism.

  4. If you are computer unsavvy and have someone else do your work on the machine because you have no idea how to turn it on, you’re an old fogey. If you do know where the on switch is, yet only use your computer for word processing, well, you get the picture. Oh yeah, if you call it a machine, that’s a few points in favor of fogeyism.

  5. If you believe there are only five typefaces in the entire universe worth using, and one of them is Helvetica, then your fogeyism is showing.

  6. If you’re a design teacher and persist on citing old fogeys as the sine qua non of graphic design, don’t be surprised if students aren’t listening.

  7. If you do not accept that all design these days is a team activity, and the term “design lead” is an actual job description, you’ve slept through the revolution.

  8. If you’re speaking before a large group of “designers” at a major digital media company and ask “How many of you consider yourself to be good typographers?” and no one raises their hand; and then follow-up with “How many of you work with typefaces as an essential part of your jobs” and you get the same blank stares, well, that’s dating you.

  9. If you haven’t figured out that design is no longer focused on the aesthetics but rather on marketing strategy of a project or product, your definitely fogey material.

  10. If all these changes in the field of graphic design cause you to complain that “Design isn’t what it used to be” and “Back in my day” and “What the hell is this crap about ‘Design Thinking?’” You may want to retake this quiz and come up with alternative answers.

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