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3/18/2010

What is your profession

This morning I had to fill out a form, asking the simple question 'Beruf Vater?' ('Father's profession?'). 7 centimeters of space were provided for the answer. I apologize for not being able to answer with just one word.  I will need about 600. Closest would be 'Designer'. 

I studied product Design for public space, and am therefore officially qualified as a Designer for public space. I write and publish about design and therefore often call myself a journalist. Most of my journalism is oral: it comes in the context of moderating or interviewing on stage. That makes me a moderator. But then again, Moderator is never a real profession, you qualify for public speaking because of things you do when you are not doing that. I teach in various design schools in Europe.

In the past (2002-2005) I was Dean of an architecture school. I taught architecture students even when I was studying design. So that makes me an teacher.

I founded an office that worked in the fields of design and architecture. Because our work was shown in an Architecture Institute at an early stage, we were most often called 'architects,' although we never drew a house or building. I have often been called a 'cityplanner' by others. I taught city planners and urban planners and interviewed a lot of them.
At the start of my career I made maps to project my own vision of cities. I felt a cartographer for a while, but normally this is only a profession for those who have actually studied cartography. You could argue, however, that in the end it is still visual representation and thereby a form of graphic design. Of course I was often called a graphic designer. Some even said our office was a graphic design studio.

But where my companion did most of the city planning, I was more involved in the art world. Art in public space, to be precise. I never made any autonomous artworks, but I was very often called an artist. I never called myself an artist, and it might be the only profession I never wanted to be.

In my time at the design institute Premsela (1998-2002) I was a manager, or a program manager. The things I did in the daytime were often in the exact same field as my work in my designer and journalist days. When I later founded a design platform we called ourselves quarter-makers, a term used in the army to describe those who go into the field first to organize the earliest necessities. Instead of this term, we could also call ourselves initiators.

Recently I started getting more involved in innovation and Web 2.0. As if it were my fate, this led to another professional description. Recently I was introduced as a Web 2.0-specialist. I couldn't repress a smile, when somebody else said so, knowing this might be the 20th profession on my 'list.'

In recent times it has become much more normal to have more than one profession. In Twitter biographies people often call themselves: serial entrepreneur, designer, social media expert and DJ. Or writer, moderator, designer and initiator. That might be why I feel so at home in this domain. All the bold words in this text have once been used -and written- as descriptions of what I am. I have learned to live with them, although I honestly would prefer one word that says it all.