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Ignorance is a dilemma that many newbie graphic designers face in the starting of their careers. Their lack of knowledge about a particular aspect of design is often taken negatively. While there is no arguing the fact that one should be well equipped and educated in order to excel in life, ignorance should not be considered a folly.
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”

Benjamin Franklin

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In most cases, graphic designers feel shy of admitting their ignorance on a particular subject. When a client comes up with a highly complex business nature, graphic designers pretend to know all just to avoid looking stupid. On the other hand, ignorance can also prove beneficial sometimes. There is a well-known saying that “A learned fool is more a fool than an ignorant fool.”

Today, I shall discuss both aspects of ignorance for graphic designers and its impact on our professional careers.


‘Ignorance’ as a Blessing:


• Inquisitive Mind

Thomas Gray wrote in one his poems Ignorance is bliss”. An ignorant designer will have an inquisitive mind…one who seeks to inquire about everything. Just like an ignorant child, he is curious to find out about everything that comes in his path. Similarly, an ignorant designer will have the courage to ask questions in order to completely understand things. Many a times, graphic designers pretend to be a ‘know-it-all’ and don’t ask for further clarifications from clients.


• Desire for Self-Learning

Being ignorant saves you from being overly complacent on your limited knowledge. If a designer doesn’t fully understand his client’s complex business nature, it’s better to admit it and learn about it.  If you pretend to know something that you are not capable of, it will lead to regret in the end. Not knowing something gives you the liberty and desire to learn about it in detail.


• Shows Your Honesty

Last but not least, being candidly ignorant of something gives the client an impression that you are an honest person to deal with. One of the stepping stones of client-designer relationship is trust. Being frank with your client on what you are not accurately familiar will help you establish a sincere relationship with them.


‘Ignorance’ as a Curse:


• Takes Time in Comprehension:

A big drawback of ignorance is that the designer will take more time in understanding the design details accurately. When clients provide the design brief for the project, a designer with lack of knowledge or information will not completely comprehend what he is being asked for. For example, if clients’ business is related to a complicated industry that the designer has never heard of, it will take relatively more time to research and digest that particular industry mechanics.


• Will Look Stupid in front of Clients:

Most clients consider graphic designers to be a ‘know-it-all’ guys who visualize everything very creatively. They would come up with a confused mind and ask for things that make no sense at all. So, the designer who is unaware of what client is talking about, will end looking up a stupid in front of clients.


• More Chances of Mistakes:

Another drawback of ignorance is that graphic designers are prone to make mistakes in their endeavors. For instance, you are working in a creative agency and your boss asked you to make copies of a document using the office photocopier machine. Being a graphic designer, it is not your job to make Xerox copies and you are ignorant of how the process is done. But since you couldn’t tell that to your boss, you ended up making the wrong photocopies.


What’s your Verdict?

So what do you think guys…Can ignorance be considered as stupidity? Or is being unaware a bliss in disguise?


  1. Adam @ Pixelbot Creative On December 16th, 2011 at 10:24 am

    When it comes to something as complicated as the example in the leading cartoon, I think ignorance would definitely be a blessing.

    When someone is so tied up in the complexities of their business or message, they sometimes forget that some of their branding elements need to appeal to not just the experts, but also the layperson.

    Sometimes it’s best to live by the old adage - KISS: keep it simple stupid. How better to simplify such complex subject matter than to only understand it superficially?

  1. CoachMhairi On December 16th, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Great question and one that, as you pointed-out, has it plus points & minus points. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing things per se, I think it’s only a problem if we pretend that we do know! Not understanding a client’s business is a brilliant place to start for asking questions and finding out. Not only finding out what they do, but finding out what their problems are, and what works for their audience, and much, much more.

  1. Really? On December 16th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Really? You can’t make a photocopy? Really? I mean really? This happens to everyone, not only to designers. A lot of folks lie on their resumes.

  1. Angie // Portland Web Designer On December 16th, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this! I remember being a newbie back in the day and thinking I’d look dumb to a client if I didn’t ask questions about their business.

    BIG mistake.

    In fact, clients LOVE talking about themselves and their business(es), so asking them questions to help clarify things is a good chance for them to do just that. And of course it helps your work **tremendously** to ask all those questions.

  1. LeahG Cartoonist On December 18th, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Cool comic strip! :)

    Meanwhile my verdict is simple. If you want to deliver the best possible service you have to understand the product and so you must ask and research until you do, otherwise you are destined for failure.
    Before I went into graphic art and design I was an online seo article writer/blogger and I had to write about everything from relationships to photocopier problems for clients. Everything required research in order to provide the best most informative and ‘fun’ content. I learned a ton of stuff for which I will always be grateful.

    Great blog!

  1. Sally Minsariya On December 18th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Being in a profession and being professionalism is everyone’s targets to complete and make your client satisfy to complete their project with calm and comfort. I love to read this post and it enthusiast me and understand me to be professional in every part of work and business.

  1. tishag On December 18th, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    This is a great article! It totally gave me a different perspective on new graphic designers starting out in the world and not doing their homework about a potential company! Having the right training is also a great way to avoid something like that because I’m sure in graphic design school’s like FIDM, they teach you to always do your homework if choosing to freelance or working for any company for that matter :)

  1. fl signs On December 21st, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Doing graphic design is not an easy thing, everyone has their own taste in art so when a project is put in front of you its (IMO) a good thing to be ignorant to some degree, ask a lot of questions even if its something simple, its better to look ignorant then to mess up over and over (which will, and always does, happen). making a logo or design without asking questions is ‘stupid’, asking questions is in no way ‘dumb’ and and will only help in the design process.

  1. Umair Ulhaque On December 28th, 2011 at 5:29 am

    Since I had a same issue when I got a few weird clients and they were explaining me about their business along with jargon.. now I am pretty much understood about the same and can easily excel my clientele. Thanks for writing.

  1. harryposter On January 8th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    That’s design 101, or any industry 101 for that matter.

    Always ask your client what they want, in five words…

    And check them out also

    As for the photcopier thing, I remember back in France, at Le Monde, there was a guy that was employed full-time to do this.

    And they had to call their Union (le syndicat du livre) to ask whether it would be PC to let a third party using their photocopier…

    I would call this paper “Le Moronde”…

  1. Davina On January 24th, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Let us be realistic here. Everyone including Graphic designers are going to be ignorant or lacking in knowledge or expertise on a number of topics in their lives.
    We have a very simple chiose - we can either blag, lie, fabricate, whatever out of a situation because we are too proud to admit we don’t know everything. Of course we will get found out and any credibility will go out of the window.
    Or, we can own up and say we don’t know. The smart person doesn’t leave it there. They use the opportunity of developing a relationship with their client by asking questions about the client’s business. Provided they have a genuine interest, the client will appreciate their honesty and transparency.
    No one likes to think they have been taken for a mug.

  1. 99designs Reviews On January 31st, 2012 at 12:35 am

    Very well written article. This is what i understand whether the cause is ignorance or stupidity, be honest when you make a mistake both to the people you’re working with and yourself. And when possible be ready with the fixes of solutions.

  1. Pierre-Louis On May 3rd, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Hello everyone…

    Delightful little article, and to the point - “Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” Well I can tell you, I am ignorant and starting at design, professionally. I feel there is so much to know, experiment with, try and fail, that it’s daunting even considering starting as a designer. I mean most people think you’re a designer just because you can work in Photoshop/Illustrator, or take some pictures. That is hardly the case…but think about this, the NIKE logo, was designed by an arts’ student for 15$ in the 70′s and I don’t think she knew anything about the shoes, the manufacturing process etc. I think that it doesn’t matter whether you know everything about everything.

    What I do think matters is having a reliable source of data for when you do want to start is to have a great set of resources on hand…So, what free resource collections do you use?

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