Design insights & tutorials.

Death To Creatives!!!

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I am not a creative. You are not a creative. No one could ever or will ever be a creative. The word creative is not a noun. It is an adjective used to describe a noun. i.e. That is a very creative story you have there, Jimmy.


I have grown tired of seeing this word used within the design community. It is not our word. It is a word created by the advertising industry for their communication purposes. Outside the advertising community, however, it is incorrect grammar.

Now maybe I’m being a bit nitpicky here, but it is incredibly annoying to me. Yes, as a people designers are typically of the creative variety, but we don’t call advertisers ‘pitchers’. I mean essentially they are pitching their ideas to their clients, but does that accurately describe what they do? I would like to see all the sexual harassment and discrimination claims that would materialize if that term caught on…

However, using ‘creatives’ as a noun is just a symptom of a larger issue; what do I say when someone asks me what I do for a living? I’m certainly not a ‘graphic designer’, even though it says that on my degree. The connotations with that term are just terrible these days. Any old housewife that has a pirated copy of Photoshop Elements is now calling themselves a “graphic designer”. It is much worse when people refer to me as a ‘graphic artist’. The term just sounds so dirty to me and it makes me feel like I’m making clip art for a living.

I could be more specific and name all the different hats I wear, i.e. ‘identity designer’, ‘print designer’, ‘web designer’, etc., but I think that would be too much for most people looking for a quick response. Then there are terms like ‘information architect’ and ‘communications designer’. These sound a bit pretentious to me personally, but at least their credibility is not completely destroyed…yet. There is also the issue of illustration and typography. Where do they both fall into the equation?

So I’m left with a dilemma. What exactly do for a living? I design. I am a designer. That’s it. No more fancy titles or faulty phrases that cannot convey my true craft. I’m stripping it down to the essentials and laying it all out there for the world to see. If in casual conversation someone’s interest is sparked by my profession and they want to know more, I will elaborate. However, if I’m in a shitty mood when they inevitably ask “What do you design,” my answer will be “everything.”


We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Stanley Parrish Jr

    Hooray Hooray!!!!

  • Kyle Steed

    I recently just switched my title to “6 Feet 4 Inches of Awesome” and if someone asks me what that means I just punch them in the face. :)

    Good post.

  • jasonbaldwin

    I agree. I don't call myself anything anymore. When you're a graphic designer AND illustrator AND art director AND type designer AND photographer AND web designer AND programmer AND et cetera, it's too constrictive to land on one.

    “Designer” is loaded enough to convey most of that, I guess. I'm better with a job description than title, though.

  • Heeectooor

    And of course there are some who call themselves graphic designers (even with a college title) and are not type designer, nor photographer, nor illustrator… Nor any. That's an even worse case. But I like your point of being just designer. Nice attitude.

  • Tyler

    I thought of myself as a graphic designer in school, but now that most designers do more than print work it, that title limits your self.

    Although saying that you are a designer is kind of vague (could be a fashion designer, interior designer…), telling someone that you are a designer is a great way to start a conversation/pitch to potential clients.

  • JG

    Soooooooooo…. Creative Director is still good? :-)

  • Joe Nicklo

    As long as the term “pixel pusher” isn't used. It makes me cringe when I hear that one…

  • toddkopriva

    I don't normally add “me, too” comments, but…

    Yeah! Right on, brother!

  • Sandra Loveless


  • Adam Law

    I agree…I see saying I am a “designer” as a way of weeding out how much someone actually cares to know what I do. If they ask, “What do you design?” then I am more inclined to elaborate. However, I do think designer's are becoming more universal and it's somewhat likely to see people more and more using a “graphic design” degree as a segway into other design fields. I mean you really learned the principles of design in school and it's how you put them into practice that really dictates your field.

  • Mike

    Kyle, somehow while speed reading these comments I read yours as “4 Inches of Awesome” haha ;).

    I use “Designer” as well. “Graphic Designer” sounds so cheap and generic now.

  • bao-khang luu

    “What do you design?”
    My answer – “Everything.”

    simply wonderful.

  • Rude Retro

    What does it matter what people call you.
    Anyway, regarding you initial statement about creative not being a noun. You are wrong. English words are defined by their use and are not restricted to their perceived original meaning. That's the way it has always been and probably (hopefully) the way it will always be.

  • enderklein

    My personal annoyance is when I hear “graphics designer” – plural graphics… it sounds like a person who would work in a vinyl banner shop running Illustrator 6.0 on a PC

  • Kelly

    I have to wonder if it's worth getting that worked up over? LOL. It is an odd name to assign, for sure… but doesn't set me askew, either. The nails-on-chalkboard title for me was mentioned above… “Graphics Designer”.

  • illuminator

    LoL! I have to say you're one of those who over thinks everything… I can be too. I usually say I'm a graphic artist, that I think covers both the design and the illustration part. If I were to say I'm a designer I would think most people would assume I do clothing or furniture, and I really don't want that. Nothing annoys me more than when someone says I'm “artsy fartsy”… that term should be outlawed.

  • YourArtDirector

    I am a creative person, my job title is Art Director, I do graphic Design. I love this post, Thanks.

  • Saharabadger

    If you're so hung up on grammar maybe you should have proof read your work.
    Last paragraph, first line: “What exactly do for a living?”

  • rauledynamite

    How about Visual Communicator?

  • ragecg

    I'm with you Adam:)

  • Yanachka

    I'm often at a loss at how to respond to “what do you do?” because when I say “I'm a designer,” even when I'm made to specify what exactly, the next question is always, “Yeah, but what do you DO?”

    Which is related to “It's going to take you HOW LONG to design that logo/brochure/web site?!”

    We're more misunderstood than writers and studio artists…

  • Jaime Radar

    when i saw the title i thought “WHAT NOW, I'm a creative!”

    alas, I have become accustomed to the worst term ever, established by men in suits who don't know anything about creativity in itself.

    i now fully back this article. i too describe myself as the broad term of “designer”… although followed up with “everything but interior decorating.”

  • Tom Faraci

    I've never really taken issue with any of these terms…

  • Jessica

    lol Love it! Great rant. I've always been interested in words and how we label and name certain things. “Creative” is indeed an adjective, but as language evolves, so does grammar, I guess.

    Using “graphic” before “designer” does seem to irk me a bit, but maybe that's because I think of “graphic” in terms of describing mathematics and science rather than art, which is what I compare “design” to. That is, I always think of “graphs” (charts), “geographic” (study of geography — the earth's surface), and the idea that the main use of graphics is to simply educate, regardless of how well the graphic is rendered. Design requires much more thought and planning, as well as skill and talent.

  • Askhari

    It's an interesting issue with those terms and titles. I live in Austria, and I never had this issue in german – on my degree it says 'Mediendesigner', which simply translates into 'media designer'. And I find the term pretty accurate. The first thing I had to learn during my formation is the exact definition of “media”. Magazines, Ads, newspaper, Radio, television, Web – what is to be considered as communication media, and how it is used to communicate content.

    I'm no industrial designer, I don't design objects. I'm not an artist, I design for a purpose and a goal. I do advertisement, typography, web, video, print, etc – all kinds of communication media. So i find this term pretty accurate. It's not pretentious, it's nothing like “I make dreams come true”, it's just a good and plain explanation of what I do:

    I design communication media. I'm a media designer.

  • heretakis

    Yes. Thats more appropriate. I love this topic!

  • Nick G Botner

    I graduated with a degree in multimedia design. But I don't have a title, I provide Creative Services.

  • Geoff May

    When people ask what my title is I just say “you wish” then I skip off into the horizon. I find that's a good way to attract new clients. It also shows curent clients who the boss is.

  • bennyg

    Nice post, so true. I am still laughing…

  • estkm

    I think of myself as an artist, but if someone ask me what do I do for a living a just tell them that I work in the printing industry or whatever I'm on by that time and they get it, it's just that simple. The word creative means a person who creates, we are creators therefore creatives. You can call yourself however you want, there are titles which sound pretty corporative that's something that bothers me as long with the idea of a person that just by having photoshop in their PC gives them the right to call them graphic designers, that's something that makes me both cry and LOL!!

  • Simon H.

    So true. Thanks Adam!

  • Big-K

    Amen!!!! I have been bothered by that “Creative” title for a long time now. I refuse to call myself that for the same reasons you outline here. Great Rant! My place of employment just changed my title to “Creative Services Coordinator”. Sounds more important I guess and I think my employer likes titles that consist of 3 words or more.

  • nuyoguru23

    That is perfect! I consider myself a creative individual and all the same rules apply…

  • Tom Marsh

    Super-funny article man. Thank you for the identity blow to our creative minds. I'll try on this refreshed designer title.

    Woot woot.

  • ThomBaker

    I hate the word designer, it just gets tagged onto anything to make it cool or better, stubble, sunglasses, babies. It's a word that has been perverted by society.

    I'm going to be the only one on here to say, yup, I have (and am currently because I haven't changed the text on my website for ages) called myself a creative. Which I am slightly embarrassed about now.

    creative – From the Oxford English Dictionary

    • adjective: involving the use of the imagination or original ideas in order to create something.

    “I am creative”, with the correct grammer is better, it works “I am involving the use of my imagination to create something”…but possibly in the same league as “artsy-fartsy” (which is how my mum understands what I do).

    I don't think theres much wrong with using the word, if you use it right.
    It encompasses the fact that I am more than a designer, artist, photographer, whatever…to create something, whether its for a client, for me, or for the hell of it.

    Nick Botner might have it though. “I offer Creative Services”
    To which the reply would be, “Like what?”
    And I will say “Whatever you want.”

    Great post, and was what I was starting to think. Cheers Adam

  • ThomBaker

    It's okay I have changed it now :D

  • pairodime

    When asked what he does – One artist I met at a Glass Sculpture show said “I Make Things”

    Later that day he gave me a sample of his work – a beautifully glazed tea cup.

    He asked me if I make things – I said yes.

    “Live ART! It's not a choice anymore”

  • rob

    Wow stop worrying and get on with your life

  • Imokon

    I use creative catalyst which started as a joke when replying to another ‘creative’s’ title of “Master Design Guru” (on his biz card too) who actually took himself a bit too seriously.

    After that I just focus on the work and not the name, otherwise prepare to get sucked into over-inflated-ego-land.

  • Cocky

    I didn’t go to college. Although i took enough classes and studied art/design/graphics long enough to call myself a designer. When someone asks me what i do i tell them I’m an artist. If they ask me how i create my art work i will then elaborate on exactly what it is i do. I really don’t mind being called or calling myself a graphic designer. I mean isn’t it what we are!?!? We are artists who use a computer as a medium to create or finalize our work. When i hear or read the word graphic i think computer. That’s just how i see it. I can’t say i disagree with your points/view. Ha i guess if i really start thinking about the subject like you have i could pick it apart and call myself nothing like prince. I’ll just become a symbol or something that conveys art.

  • mat

    i think people put a bit too much emphasis on roles, as if the job you do has some sort of relevence to the person you are. I feel the two, although possibly linked on occasions, are seperate.

  • Nardyello

    Excellent points presented here. Just by reading the title and the introduction I knew what you were going for.

    Death to “Creatives” =]

  • Ross

    The english language is an evolutionary one, and I am sure the word “creatives” will worm its way into the dictionary eventually (as a noun).

    To “Google” now quite obviously means to search on the internet.

    To “text” has become synonymous with creating an SMS.

    Dude, if small things like this make you uptight at your age now, I hate to see you as a grumpy old man!


  • Pixteca

    I think pixel pusher is more of a nerdy name for us who love Pixel Art.

  • andymarshall

    i've also heard the term “creative(s)” being applied to a set of drafts / designs sent to clients as part of the web design process… equally pretentious!

    i'm in he lucky position i can call myself “creative director” or “technical director” (or both) :)

    if people are still stuck for what to call themselves, try:

  • HWS

    What I find annoying, and directly related to this “problem”, is the use of the word “design” as a noun other than when it refers to a “plan” (like in “a grand design”)… We don't make designs, we design layouts, drafts, websites, books, etc. Design is a process, not a product. Until people inside and outside the business realize this the role(s) of the designers will never be understood, and we will only be mistaken for decorators.

  • allchornr

    I find people that complain about other's use of language where it's perfectly clear what someone meant to be more pretentious than those that do it.

    Really people. You know what the person meant… get over it. You sound like a bunch of whinging sorority girls (apologies to sorority girls).

    To HWS… design IS a noun!

    Noun: design di'zIn
    The act of working out the form of something (as by making a sketch or outline or plan)

  • guymclaren

    God but creatives are a whiny lot aren't you? The title is immaterial, its the results that count. Graphic designers are not web designers. Print design and web design are two different jobs like toilet mechanic and electrician are two different jobs.

    Who are you trying to impress with this whinge? Do you want some cheese with that whine?

  • Corey Freeman

    Hahahahaha. This post was amazing. It has been irritating me for a long time. My friend was reading a post on a reputable design blog and asked, “what is time management for creatives? Is that like, creative people? Creativity? What?”

    It was hilarious. Thanks for the great post!

  • facebook-872940240

    Great article and you touched upon somethings that has been driving me nuts for a wile.

    But further to this topic, what's infurates me to no extent is the term “creative” used to describe the act of Blogging, Design concepts, or Copy. I've had numerouse clients ask me when 'they can expect the creative in' or want me to look 'at the creative for a campaign'. It's bonkers… What's wrong with asking when 'will the Blog Posts be up' or lets a 'look at our campaign posters?'

  • Russ Bratcher

    Yah when they ask you, “What is your background?” You say, design. That's all.

  • sherdy

    Gah! thats right up there with being told to “action it”, Nike Just – Action It

  • Ryan Roberts

    tinternets – serius busness!

  • Nobox Design

    This is always such touchy subject. Especially when you work in the corporate advertising world because titles mean so much to the account executives when they are presenting you or your work to a client. I would have to agree with this post though that they aren't right. My belief is keep the title generic like I do design like mentioned above but let your work speak for what kind of design or creative outlet you are presenting.

  • JUS

    “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

    “What matters is what something is, not what it is called.”

    Words are the transportation for thought and therefore should be chosen correctly when written or orally expressed. But people give words life from their thoughts perhaps the word “creatives” is growing to encompass a larger definition because there is a greater mass perception of it that differs from the words official definition, so would it be wrong for the word to not reflect this? Haven't other words over time changed or evolved in definition to fit the most current perceptions of it?

    “creatives” could be the new slang which represents something entirely different than its correctly defined counter part. As wrong or right as it may be. To limit our selves and our vocabulary's by rules and or limits put into place before our birth time is to me just a form of mental slavery.

    But this article is very relevant to many of us who have given our lives to performing communication in anyway effectively and efficiently. If we can't convey ourselves right who will?

    Closing comment: this site is awesome. great article.

  • allchornr

    What JUS said… I concur.

  • sethteeters

    I love that term… it's a statement in itself. I'm a student designer and hoping to be an advertising designer (that's the term I use), and always stress to my peers that the design has to communicate… what else are we doing it for?

  • kchung85

    Haha… This is a great article, but there is one flaw. On your twitter profile you called yourself a graphic designer. You might want to change that.

  • Drifting Creatives

    If using the word “creative” as a noun actually causes you “irritation”, does your head explode when you get a bug bite?

  • David Boni

    Wow. While I agree with the whole “don't use the word creative as a noun” thing, I really didn't appreciate how the rest of the article devolved into snobbery. Screw that about “graphic designer” being a cheap title nowadays—God forbid you go out of the way and explain to your clients and everyone you meet the difference between a skilled/educated (or self-educated) graphic designer and a kid with a copy of Photoshop.

    Using the title of graphic designer means I definitely deal with visual information, symbols, and how they are formed and laid out for the human eye to decipher and, hopefully, enjoy. When I compile a website, I don't see the difference in what I'm doing today against what the typesetters of old did. The processes and the distribution methods have changed, but the goals of our profession remain the same.

    Try and be a little more poetic. Using just “designer” makes me think of Gucci crackheads. I like “art director” though… feels more fresh than being a traditional graphic designer, and it rings better with other kinds of creative folks (bands/musicians, writers, et cetera). I put both on my business cards for good measure.

  • richardpeacockcarteryork

    Certainly agree that 'graphic designer' has become linked to 'seedy' work – and for some reason, 'designer' on its own doesn't!

  • dansellers

    Well dude, you better call up Merriam-Webster and tell them to take it out because it has been a noun since 1962.

    Either way relax… it's just a word and we know what it's implying. It sucks that the article is inaccurate and I really don't think this was a great topic to write about on a website for “creatives”.

  • Barry

    I'm more annoyed by the number of “artists” on the planet now. Musicians are artists, actors are artists, designers are artists, everybody is a dang artist…except for illustrators, which are now nearly extinct. And, frankly, any kid with a bootleg copy of Photoshop IS a designer now, because there are few clients who know the difference between a professional and a poser, and they tend to prefer the poser's prices.

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  • Bill

    Since I work mainly as a designer, but that doesn't really sound inclusive enough of the writing and video production my job also entails, my new business cards say “Digital Bad-Ass”

  • Dan

    Excellent job..
    dizi izle

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