Skip to main content

You are not a tool

Yesterday, SquareSpace launched a new logo design tool out into the wild, and the design community (at least on twitter) went a little nutty. I would guess that most of the outrage could be chocked up to people enjoying being outraged on social media, and there were probably very few people who gave it much thought after tweeting about it.

I am not one of those people. I thought about it all night.

I’m also not one of the people that was upset about it.  In fact, if you scroll back through our blog archives, you’ll find a number of graphics for my own blog posts that could have been created with the SquareSpace tool (and I happen to quite like them).

I understand where that hostility comes from – anything that could conceivably threaten your livelihood (whether that threat is real or  perceived) is sure to put people into a uproar.

Seeing that tool as a threat illuminates a broader misunderstanding of what it means to be a designer and what value we provide. It illuminates a misunderstanding of what branding is, and why it has value.

You are not a tool. No one is hiring you because you know how to work the pen tool in illustrator. You are not a button pusher, a filter applier, a gradient maker, or pixel monkey. You are a designer. Your client isn’t hiring you because you know how to work the doodads, and if they knew how to work the doodads then they would just do it themselves. Your client is hiring you to think. To work the process. To understand their business, their audience, their needs, their hopes and dang desires. They’re hiring you to take that amorphous ephemeral blob of thoughts, and realize it into visual signifiers that convey that in the clearest simplest terms possible.

That cannot be done in a wysiwyg. Is a carpenter worried about a new saw?

If you see yourself as a tool, it’s you that devalues your work and your contribution, not SquareSpace. When you get to the point that you can acknowledge, and deeply know, the value that you provide beyond knob twiddling, you will find that your work gets better, your clients are happier, and that all in all it’s pretty great to have the privilege of being a designer in today’s world.




I'm an art director hailing from the great northern state of Minnesota. After a decade in the industry, I'm only interested in projects where we get to add real value. I believe in making grids, breaking grids, clean code, good type, 70's motorcycles, and Raymond Chandler novels.