An author can be described as “the person who originates or gives existence to anything.” Design authorship neither suggests the designer should or should not claim his/her work, nor does it mean that it should be signed in one way or another. To the contrary authorship, or design as author, is more so a voice or expression integrated into the message. According to Michael Rock, “The question of how designers become authors is a difficult one, and exactly who qualifies and what authored design might look like depends on how you define the term and determine admission into the pantheon,” as he suggests in his 1996 essay The Designer as Author. Those assimilations can be pasted into existence through the graphic designers work and their character. The role of the graphic designer as author shouldn’t stop with the clients work, it turns out to be a way of life—to believe in your principles and their significance.
Auteur theory began as an idea based around the authorship of film directors. To create a film into the category of art the director had complete control over the entire film. Rock suggests that that theory can be applied to graphic designers as much the film director. In the field of graphic design, auteur can be measured by technical proficiency coupled with signature style and a focus area within the field. Although there is a place for the auteur theory I consider graphic design auteur as a fundamental theory. I can relate to Rock’s categories and I understand how he has places particular graphic designers into these areas. However one can also argue that this notion limits those who have additional significance to the richness of graphic design, such as Saul Bass for example as a designer and motion typographer. Authorship, and the style of authoring, is an individualistic and distinctive territory, each author can, and should, decide on their authorship—Bruce Mau is perhaps a textbook example of this logic.
Without doubt the theory of auteur is a vital part of graphic design history and the ability to categorize styles and movements within graphic design, the designer as producer, is of absolute significance. Lorraine Wild mentions technique in her 1998 essay The Macramé of Resistance. She writes, “Instead of technique, I think it is important to talk about craft.” Craft, according to Wild, is not defined in terms of technique but as theoretical knowledge and tacit knowledge. The first, theoretical knowledge Wild describes how Peter Dormer, a late British theorist, discusses his theory, “the concept behind things, the language we use to describe and understand ideas,” while tactic knowledge as, “knowledge gained through experience, or ‘know-how.’” Suggesting an association regarding Wild’s notion of craft, I am motivated to favor the point that graphic designers should be engaged in work that transcends—design at a higher, purer purpose—traditional service-oriented paradigms. This approach allows the designer to appreciate the needs of the client while contributing their knowledge, discernment, and authenticity.
As important as authorship can be it‘s not surprising that authorship assists the design production. Rock supports this as he states, “Theories of authorship also serve as legitimizing strategies, and authorial aspirations may end up reinforcing certain conservative notions of design production and subjectivity.” I could not define design production more accurately than Ellen Lupton has. She writes in her essay The Designer as Producer, “For the designer to become a producer, she [or he] must have the skills to begin directing content, by critically navigating the social, aesthetic, and technological systems across which communications flow.” This broad understanding allows designers to deliver work at a sophisticated level with an even greater purpose.
The notions of authorship, craft, and producer are all dynamic and essential theories towards enriching graphic design within individuals and as a profession. Remembering how these models intermix is imperative. Take for example the words of Michael Rock, “An examination of the designer-as-author could help us to rethink process, expand design methods, and elaborate our historical frame to incorporate all forms of graphic discourse. But while theories of graphic authorship may change the way work is made, the primary concern of both the viewer and the critic is not who made it, but rather what it does and how it does it.” Ellen Lupton supports this stating, “For the designer to become a producer, she must have the skills to begin directing content, by critically navigating the social, aesthetic, and technological systems across which communications flow.” Reflecting back to the notions of Wild we can an association. Wild mentions this same concept in her words, “The knowledge gained through activities that can be described as tactical, everyday, or simply craft, is powerful and important, and it must form the foundation of a designer’s education and work.”
To have a designers voice it demands the consideration of these views. The ability to direct the meaning of a message for a graphic design professional is crucial. Comprising authorship through tactic and theoretic knowledge to give sustenance a concept is necessary. The capacity to employ appropriate techniques through its production is imperative as well. The blend of these theories can create a powerful individual in graphic design amongst a world full of individual perceptions surrounded by a disruptive social climate. Wild continues these thoughts saying, “These are the tools we need to build creative independence, to liberate invention, to produce the exceptional.” “Why else are we here?”