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Why Designers are Pretentious

“What’s the big deal with comic sans anyway? It’s not that bad.”

Fun fact — whenever that question is asked, designers everywhere choke on their cold brew.

As designers, we’ve heard it before — “Designers are pretentious.” — we “obsess over the smallest things” and “are way too attached to certain fonts.”  We analyze everything, and tweak one thing only to move it back.


Maybe you’ve heard, thought, or believed some of these phrases too?

While these comments are true in some cases, we prefer to think that a designer’s headstrong nature is actually born of good intent. Designers are taught that the foundation of design is communication, so every design is guided by the message it’s trying to tell. If it feels like we’re pulling reasons out of thin air, we are here to tell you that we do have a rationale for our decisions, even though it’s not always easy to express them. 

In contrast, here are some shaky ideas that we hear as designers:

“It doesn’t matter how it looks as long as it works.” 

“The fonts are practically the same; can’t we just swap them out?”

“Aren’t pink and salmon the same color?”

Context

Context is extremely important here, but ultimately, we engage with these questions because it does matter how something looks, and not all fonts are the same. We have these conversations because design matters.

One way we like to define design is: the chemistry of what makes something visually appealing.

Cake

Another way — it’s like cake!

You know how when you bake a cake you put all of these random things together and after it comes out of the oven it’s magically delicious and enjoyable and you don’t even know how?!


All of its parts — the eggs, flour, sugar, milk, —  when combined make it into something delicious, and people keep coming back for more. But say you leave out the eggs, or worse — trade them for chicken! (They’re both proteins, right?) Suddenly, you don’t have cake anymore. 

Design works in this same way. When you switch out a serif font for a script font (they’re both fonts right?) you get a completely different recipe and a completely different cake. Why? Because making a design is like making a recipe. All of the elements have to work together to create something that tastes and LOOKS good!

So, this brings us back to answer our initial question - why are designers pretentious or nit-picky?

Truth

The truth is that there is never a reason to be rude or insulting. What if we rephrase the question to - “Why are designers so strongly opinionated and passionate?” We like to think it’s because we have the desire to create something that people enjoy. And to do that, it takes the right combination of ingredients for the right situation.

A baker is happy to know that their customers enjoy the cake they made for them, and designers like happy clients too. So are designers pretentious? Maybe some are, but we think we all just like to bake delicious cakes. Let's get to baking!