Last year I was talking to a designer about the class line up at an upcoming sewing conference. I pointed out that one of the classes people seemed to be most excited about was on surface design. She said, “I don't think surface design should be taught at conferences like this. Are you there to learn to sew or to get in line to be the next fabric designer?”
Then last week I read I an article by graphic designer Paul Biedermann called, “Cheap, Freebie ‘Design’ Tools are Not Really About Design At All.” In reference to the free drag-and-drop graphics apps like Canva and PicMonkey, Paul writes, “They’re slick. They’re cheap. Their sales pitches look convincing. And there are some very well-respected people promoting their services. But they have absolutely none of the virtues of what REAL design brings to business…the more time you spend playing around with the latest, greatest freebie tool and not engaging with the power of real design are more missed business opportunities.”
These two statements are the same at their core, I think: real knowledge should belong to the few.
This could not be more contrary to my core beliefs.
I didn’t go to art school and have no formal training in anything related to what I do now, except teaching. Because it’s taken me a very long to time feel confident enough to say I’m a designer, I really empathize with people who want to learn but need a roadmap and a toolbox. My book, my blog, my tutorials, my ebooks… almost everything I produce is an effort to provide those things, to share all the resources I know about in case they might open a door for you.
And that’s the most exciting and wonderful thing about Internet now: it’s flung open the doors. Not sure how to get started making repeat patterns for fabric? Try your hand at the Spoonflower pattern maker (or attend a sewing conference!). Just starting out and need a logo for your business? Try the Squarespace logo maker. Going to a sewing conference but don’t yet have business cards to hand out? Try designing them and printing them with Makr.
Do these tools devalue designers? Absolutely not. Using Canva isn't the same thing as getting a degree in graphic design. Attending a two hour workshop isn't equivalent to a college-level textiles class. But it's a start. Right now it's accessible in a radical way. Who's in control is shifting. And that's awesome.
It in no way devalues my work when someone joins the While She Naps Softie Designer's Forum, learns to create a PDF pattern, and makes their first sale on Etsy. Instead, it makes me feel awesome to know that I played a role in making their creative efforts come to fruition. It also doesn't devalue my years of trial and error in learning to design sewing patterns when someone reads my book and creates their first original doll pattern. If anything it helps to establish me as an expert in my field.
I pointed some of this out on Twitter last week and Guy Kawasaki, the new spokesman for Canva, jumped in on the conversation with this rather Zen-like statement that I think sums it up well, “Who democratization scares is as interesting as who it empowers.”
Instead of trying to hurry up and lock the door, embrace the creativity and ingenuity that is born when everyone has the key.