Designer, Author, Maker

Module 3. Brief 3. Week 10.

Last week I looked at what design entrepreneurship is, and what characteristics make a successful entrepreneur. I am now looking at what it is to be a designer and be the author of my own work. What really is design authorship? What characteristics does a design author have? What is the difference between the design entrepreneur and the design author?

I really want to analyse this role and understand why people in the position of a design author wish to make off their own back and what drives them to do it. How can I become a design author? What do I have to do or make, or even perceive?

I am going to look into a range of “design authors” and see their way of thinking, why they produce the work they do, and what led them to do it. Ultimately, I will be looking at the ways I can become my own design author and the work I could produce for myself to do that.


The author is known to most commonly as the writer of a book, but more literally the term ‘author’ is known as the person who begins or creates something [1]. So more specifically, what is the design maker? A person that creates something and communicates that visually with their design skills?

An exhibition run in Kentucky in 1996, Designer as Author: Voices and Visions [2], this was a means to highlight designers as authors. Realising that being a graphic designer and a design author came hand in hand; in most cases.

Michael Rock wrote an essay for Eye Magazine, The designer as Author [3], where he questioned ‘what does it really mean to call for a graphic designer to be an author?’

He asks himself similar questions to the ones I am asking myself. He believes that who qualifies and what authored design might look like depends on how I personally define the term. He believes that an author is a person who originates or gives existence to anything, a loose term that I agree with. You can make anything and you are its author, whether it is a book, a sculpture, a cake, or a business. His belief is that to be a design author is to be the designer’s expression of themselves. 

Gerren Lamson, a designer and illustrator teamed up with his wife to form the shop Satchel & Sage [4]. Combining their love of design, illustration, and typography to create colourful prints and textiles. Selling online on Etsy and visiting craft fairs. This method of design authorship has been driven by their passion to create. Without the enjoyment of the creative process, designing and making, this would be pointless. 

Screenshot 2019-08-03 at 12.06.52.png

Anthony Burrill’s, Make It Now [5] the publication of everything letterpress and print is a physical representation of his belief that old fashioned press is the true key for great design. He hasn’t got a hatred for the digital era, but a love for the quality and the spontaneity of print. This passion led him to share his beliefs in the form of a publication. His book is a testament to his love of print, the publication is his means of sharing this process with others so they can also enjoy it.


Office of Craig’s, Craig Oldham, founder of Rough Trade Books [6] spoke in this week’s podcast for his strong opinions of design authorship. He believes that personal work is the key to authorship in graphic design.

He believes that graphic design should move on from its dated name and be called ‘communication design’. The overall intention of what we do is to communicate a message. He also does not see it as a medium of self-expression. Therefore believing that design is a creative outlet. It is purely a tool to output a message. “Graphic design is a service industry”, we design for other people, to other people. As designers, we are their tool to output their message to a targeted audience; the middle man. We don’t have to like what we do for it to work. 

He believes design authorship is a fundamental importance for ourselves to express our idea through our design skills. Visually communicating our passions, beliefs, and interests. 

Craig seems to be a man that is very much a designer by trade and a creative by heart. He has inspiring ideas and is a very creative character, however, he sees the role as a graphic designer as a skill that is to be used as a tool as if we are software or a series of computer command keys. He uses this ‘tool’ of creative communication to express other creative interests but does not believe this communication process to be one. 

Am I a designer that writes, or a writer that designs?

His avid belief is that writing is a creative subject that then needs to be designed; expressed by his interest in publications used in and inspired by cult movies. This avid interest has developed into his book company, Rough Trade Books [6].

This is an interesting perspective, as I have always classed myself as an artist, always painting, always making. Only during my studies have I turned my passion for making into a passion for communication design. This could easily be translated for me to:

Am I a designer that makes, or a maker that designs?

So what I need to ask myself is what is my real interest, and How can I develop that side of things and communicate that through design?


Question of the Week: How do you uncover opportunities for an authorial artefact through a reflection on your own skills and interests?
I believe, that only once you look inwardly on your personal interests, beliefs and what you are passionate for can you then begin to see opportunities for an authorial project.


This week I am challenged to find 2 examples of designers with authorial output. Analyse their outputs and investigate whether it was the purpose, passion, or problems that drove them to publish the project or product.

Screenshot 2019-08-03 at 12.48.36.png

Jessica Walsh is a great example of someone who has pushed their passion to push their passion to become her own author. Working for many years as part founder of Sagmeister and Walsh, she has now broken free to start her own solo studio, &Walsh [7]. An inspiring designer pushing for her own change.

A recent inspiring authorial project was from Intern Mag, who held the event Terms and Conditions [8] in London to introduce up and coming creatives about the legal side of their profession. This branding was beautifully designed by Regular Practice. They wanted to run talks and workshops based around the theme of legal advice, which is rarely talked about in the design industry. This is a topic that everyone in the creative field has to think about and take into consideration and the topic most of us know least about. Intern may be a business, but the people behind the name pushed for this event to help creatives with something they felt is needed. A topic they think is left under the radar.


Natasha Lipman [9], a social media influencer with a difference. She aims to inspire those with chronic illnesses by sharing her stories, experiences, and daily struggles living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. 

Her blog and Instagram page are full of inspiring quotes illustrated with dainty designs. I chose Natasha as an author creative as she is clearly a creative self author, she is passionate about what she shared as she is targeting a specific group of people that she is a part of. 

She has a large following of people who are enchanted by her story and her positive attitude which is truly inspiring.



Myself as Author.

Now I have taken the time to investigate some of the case studies of design authors, I am now looking at my own practice. I need to think of 10 personal projects ideas; these all must be potential ideas for a product or creative project. Something that has my identity embedded into it. As Alec wisely said, to “stamp your own identity on a piece of work”.

I believe we can uncovering opportunities with what you already have in front of you. I have a number of strong beliefs, I see problems that I want to help change, I am passionate for a lot of things, and these are all routes I can go down to produce my own “side hustles” and ultimately be my own design author.

I am proud of my unique style as ‘Graphic Design Artist’, and I am lucky to have/had the opportunity to work on a project that I can put my flare into. However, like Craig Oldham says, I am producing work “for someone, to someone”, and not for myself.

Screenshot 2019-08-03 at 12.36.51

This is why I have another part of me that I stay true to, my artistic side. It is a release of inspiration and craft. Of course I sell my artwork and offer commissions but hand on creating is a part of my work that I keep separate from my designs.

Screenshot 2019-08-03 at 12.38.53

The way I photograph my artwork though relates back again at my design style and skills. In this case, I am a maker that designs.

Design author projects or products:

  1. Artwork – Designed photoshoot and online store
  2. Desk view – A tool for collaboration.Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 12.10.46.png
  3. Guide to design process – A Module 1 outcome
  4. Dream Studio – Setting up a studio with Katie Hardcastle Business Plan5
  5. Starting workshops/meet-ups for designers – A space where creatives can come together to help brainstorm ideas for their current/future projects and give each other feedback and advice (off the back of the studio idea)
  6. Welcome to Abel – Application to aid the rise in mental health issues in schoolsScreenshot 2019-07-31 at 12.23.57
  7. Not every disability is visible‘ Awareness campaign – Producing graphics and GIFs to aid the campaign run by Crohn’s and Colitis UK
  8. Designer thoughts? Series of social media posts
  9. Set of line drawing posters and GIFs
  10. Weekly coloured card collage posters – Based on Module 1, week 4 posters – Based on weekly emotions



This week has enlightened me on what an author really is, similarly to last week the term I once believed I knew the definition of has now changed. I have realised we can all be authors of our own work. I am already an author of my own work because I producing content with the course that is for myself. I have looked at a few different creatives that are authors of their own work and it has inspired me. I have realised some more personal projects that I can develop on to produce my own authorial project. 

I will be developing one of these over the next two weeks to deliver a detailed artefact designed and produced by myself. 



  1. (2019). AUTHOR | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Aug. 2019].
  2. (2019). Graphic design, exhibition context, curatorial practices › Designer as Author: Voices and Visions. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Aug. 2019].
  3. (2019). Eye Magazine | Feature | The designer as author. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Aug. 2019].
  4. (2019). Satchel & Sage | Printed goods and textiles, hand-crafted by the wife and husband team of Morgana and Gerren Lamson in Austin, Texas.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Aug. 2019].
  5. Burrill, A. (2017). Make It Now. Penguin Books.
  6. Rough Trade Books. (2019). Home | Rough Trade Books. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Aug. 2019].
  7. (2019). [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Aug. 2019].
  8. Intern Magazine. (2019). Intern Magazine — Terms and Conditions. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Aug. 2019].
  9. Natasha Lipman. (2019). About Me – Natasha Lipman. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Aug. 2019].

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