> I do know of studios and practitioners who quite cynically
> do the equivalent of relying on default software settings,
> fulfilling each brief with remarkably similar technical
> specifications, irrespective of the client's needs.
About twenty years ago I was at a barbecue talking to Kit Hinrichs and I yammered on about how "style" is an abandonment of a designer's job, that form is a function of the message therefore needs to emerge from the design goals. (Kit is a partner in Pentagram and has a distinctive and identifiable style. Anyone who knows his work might conclude that I was being a bit of a twit even though I really didn't mean it as a personal attack.)
Kit said "You're right. But you use a drop cap because it leads the eye into the page then you realize that it works in a lot of places. You run type around a photo because it integrates type an image then you realize that it works in a lot of places. . . and pretty soon you have something that looks like a style."
> Certainly the designer is relinquishing some of his or her
> creative control to the software engineers, but does that
> constitute 'not designing'?
I spend a fair amount of time asking students to think about software settings, asking if they really want their design decisions to be made by a bunch of programmers in Mountain View but you are, of course, right. Many design decisions are made by default (technical or otherwise) and using received "rules" (whether from you, me, Bob Bringhurst, or InDesign) is not disqualification from the honored title of "graphic designer."
Chris and Karel are right that there is a fair amount of variation in what people called graphic designers (let along people called designers) do. There are good arguments for differentiation among graphic designers. For me, that's the single appealing notion in the recurring cry for certification of practitioners. (For an old and, I found, fairly frustrating conversation on this, see http://www.underconsideration.com/speakup/archives/002340.html)
Ultimately, however, those of us who hope we transcend being software jockeys still do many of the "merely mechanical" things we dismiss and could not do what we do if we did not. Our thinking and seeing is at least partly bound up in making.
Lance Armstrong titled his book "It's Not About the Bike" but let him try doing what he did without one.
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