At the most recent InHOWse Managers Conference the attendees were asked during the panel discussion session whether they supported creating a certification program for in-house designers. A few in the audience half-heartedly raised their hands, most couldn’t be bothered. Personally, I was disappointed and frustrated with the response and I attribute the lack of enthusiasm to a lack of understanding of the benefits a credible certification program would bring to our profession.
First, I want to clarify that this would not be a program that would assess an individual’s design skills. Portfolios, resumes, education and work experience should be able to adequately showcase a designer’s design skills. What the certification program would provide is an assessment of a designer’s less visible business, strategic and collaborative skill sets – qualities not easy to discern on paper or even in interviews.
An in-house skills “seal of approval” would greatly benefit companies looking to hire talent who not only can create great creative but who can integrate and operate within a sometimes rigid and demanding corporate environment. I’ve personally witnessed some of my own hires who were top-notch creative, crash and burn when having to work in a larger organization whose core business was not creative services.
Designers would also benefit on two counts. First, by participating in the certification process, they would receive much-needed business training that is usually not offered in traditional design schools that would support their success in a corporate setting. Second, certification would enable them to differentiate themselves from their uncertified peers increasing their chances of landing a job with an in-house team.
Finally, certification which exists for most other professions, would enhance the perception and credibility of designers, enabling them to gain that coveted “seat at the table” and the respect they need to have a greater say in any deliberations about the deliverables they present to clients and other key stakeholders.
Other countries, such as Canada, have successfully built and supported a certification program for the design profession. There is no reason why we can’t and shouldn’t do that here in the US. The benefits far outweigh any potential disadvantages of implementing an in-house design certificate process. It will take an industry organization much time money and focus to pull this off in a credible and sustainable way, but the long-term ROI to the in-house community would be well worth the effort.