Do graphic designers need to be the authors of their work (how we classify a graphic author is another issue) for graphic design to have a universal and an agreed definition? Can we not define graphic design on its own terms without having a designer = author?

I came to this question after revisiting "Designer as Author" written by the designer and the design critic Michael Rock ( Rock posits "Authorship may suggest new approaches to understanding design process in a profession traditionally associated more with the communication than the origination of message." This argues that the authorship of the designer is required for graphic design to be classified more than a service to clients and, hence, for graphic design to redefine itself. Yet, why are we so tempted to aspire to other disciplines (literature with the figure of an author or art with the interests in finding the "modern" and the "postmodern" in graphic design) to find a definition for graphic design? Can we not create/define a discipline from pure absence?

The thumbnail image I used for authorship_001 is the book cover for "The Designer as...: Author, Producer, Activist, Entrepeneur, Curator, and Collaborator: New Models for Communicating" by Steven McCarthy ( The title conveys the same problem: the interest in comparing designers to other professions in creating the discipline. This desire is understandable since graphic design becomes present only through other disciplines (the designer Stuart Bailey comes to the term "ghost discipline" after this reasoning). It is used for typesetting a literary piece, creating a poster for a film or for making an album cover for a band. With the discipline so disintegrated into others, maybe it is indeed hard to not make any comparisons. Yet, I still wonder if we can go by without making such comparisons. Maybe, it is exactly because we are so invested in these comparisons that we came to see graphic design as a "ghost discipline," existing only at the presence of other disciplines. Then, what definition we gave to the discipline comes mainly from such comparisons. However, rather than relating graphic designers to other professions, simply focusing on designers' practices and how they are challenging the conventional graphic forms before anything else can provide insights into how to perceive graphic design(ers). Perhaps, then we can redefine graphic design. When that time comes, we might not even need the literary term "author," and like Rock suggests, maybe "designer = designer" would be enough by itself.