why is there no "reports designer" job like there is "html/web designer" (vs web programmer)?

it seems to me that the job of programming reports can be split up into a visual design task and the generate the data task. So, why can’t the perfectionist manager with nothing better to do with his time sit down with a reports designer to plan out look of the tables, using sample numbers/text for clarity whereas subsequently the designer would write up a spec for which data needs to be generated, get the code from the programmer and integrate it?

Note, among other things, that this approach would allow the designer to be a lot less “trusted” guy than the programmer since he does not really need to touch or even look at the database itself. Further, the reports designer could specialize in one or more popular reports engines and be highly proficient in its quirks whereas the programmer would concentrate on the quirks of the company’s codebase itself.

So, what’s wrong with this picture? Why don’t I see “we need a Crystal Reports designer professional with 40 years of proven experience” ads on Craigslist? Is the above described separation of concerns not as viable as I am imagining it?

We definitely have people that do that. I’m not in IT, but I work with them when I scope business needs and analytical models, and the IT team breaks in up into coders, database teams, and report design.

eta: currently, they’re big on Silverlight

Quickbooks pro advisors kinda end up doing alot of this for small businesses.

In some organizations, such as the one in which I currently work, report development (both layout and data collection) is handled by the database people (DBAs or database developers).

Being a DB guy, I spend a lot of time ensuring the data is right; the layout, as long as it isn’t hideous, generally gets a pass. Having a graphic-oriented layout person would definitely be a big plus in the professional look of our reports, but since they are all used in-house, no one wants to devote a full-time salary to that task.

Don’t take this as a jerk-ish statement, just someone that has been buried in and analyzed this type of topic for a long time: If you want to duplicate the least efficient method of generating solutions then you can do what you ask.

Every time you hand off “specs” to some other party or department you’ve just lost time in translation and increased the chance for error and the length of time for error correction, etc. etc. Like everything, it makes sense sometimes for some things. It’s a continuum, the more widgets you create, the less percentage overhead the spec passing process takes. But for systems it’s often a 1 to 1 between specs and end result and the transfer of knowledge eats up too much time. To the extent you can have people who’s skills span a wider range so you don’t have to pass stuff off, you will be 10x more productive. Seriously.
Better Solution:
Provide proper tools to proper people so solution can be generated at the furthest end point possible in the organization (IT is a gigantic bottleneck always, push everything out to the power users that is possible)

A proper tool allows a non-technical but application/data knowledgeable person to just lay out the report and it is done.

Also, if the desired “data model” specific to the reporting requirement doesn’t exist yet, then a non-IT person can construct it in a way that delivers valid results (they can’t shoot themselves in the foot with nonsense data).
The “Best” Solution:
A complete denormalization of the entire enterprise data model so the person generating output data doesn’t have to understand anything about the internal structure of the data model but can still generate any desired view (they need to understand the business to properly interpret the results, that one technology can’t eliminate).

They do what you describe in many companies. One job title that does a lot of that type of thing is Business Systems Analyst although others may be involved as well. Programmers don’t usually design the look of reports in most larger companies in my experience.

At the company where I work (a database consultancy firm) there are specialist report designers, who are usually business analysts with a visual design slant, and specialist report builders, who focus on taking the design and knowing the technology well enough to produce the report from it.

That’s ignoring all the other roles, of course, but there are certainly “reports designers”.

Most reports are designed to suit the whims of an individual, who is the designer. Reports with more wide spread usage often involve a ‘designer’. Also, traditionally, reports contained only text, in the only font available, occasionally with the addition of simple graphics. Design concerns were mostly about the title of the report and whether the date should go in the top left or top right. Modern reports are beginning to resemble ESPN the Magazine and designers will be employed more often.