Recently, in my writing composition class, I was asked to write a paper using a prompt which questions my field of study. The results were quite interesting after I thought about the question and did some research.
“What is the most important development that has occurred in graphic design during the last ten years? Explain this development and how it has impacted graphic design as a career.”
In the past twenty years, our world has changed greatly with the increased reliance on computers. The invention of the microchip has advanced our technology so much that we can now access many services without leaving the comfort of our homes. As a graphic designer I can also see that my industry is no exception to this revolution. Suddenly, untrained individuals have access to inexpensive tools that can be used for a variety of publications. Professional software owners are making their own fliers to promote small businesses. The invention of the internet has created a new medium demand for online web design, and the multimedia industries have also turned to more advanced design elements.
Historically, graphic designers have relied on professionals from outside trades to handle technical aspects of design such as typesetters and printer. The designers only need to develop concepts, seek approval from clients, and assemble the finished art to complete the piece. Once the type set and style were specified for the typesetter, the proofs were attached to a presentation board with all of the artwork and design elements for final production. The relationship between designers, typesetters, paper suppliers, and printers was almost exclusive. The development of the computer has changed the routine path for the industry. Graphic designers often still have agreements with suppliers, but typesetters have disappeared, and their duties are absorbed by the designers themselves. These days clients provide all of the copy in a digital format, and the designers are in charge of formatting the copy and creating a layout. Once clients approve the designs, it goes straight to prepress preparation or printing. The trail from start to beginning to end can be completely digital from the design standpoint.
The introduction of the computer to the design world has revolutionized the way graphic designers conger up and process ideas into the finished products we see on billboards, movies, fliers, magazines, and especially websites. A new medium of work has been sent to the playing field. Instead of a typesetter working with 2,000 characters, now computer-based software products can take the creative process straight to the computer with thousands of type fonts to experiment with. Adobe, a major software company, has licensed several products and packaged them into a design suite with software which allows users to manipulate anything from simple fonts to images, or even video and animation. Due to the ease of use and lack of training required for basic tasks users have began to take projects into their own hands. Thus, eliminating some need for hiring designers. This is one reason why designers have been forced to spread themselves lightly over a variety of platforms. The survival of a designer in the digital world partly demands that the individual must study in multiple types of media. The fine arts have been almost stripped from graphic design and journalism has been added to form a type of hybrid individual for the digital market. Although drawing skills and many of the fine arts can be greatly beneficial to anyone working in digital media, it is no longer necessary to land a job in a small firm, or maybe even a large firm. Whether or not one can survive as designer never touching a pen and paper is quite controversial considering it can astronomically reduce creative results and greatly simplify, or abstract, your work as a designer.
With all of the new bells and whistles being used in graphic design, education has evolved to meet such expectations and demands. As the graphic design field continues to merge more every day with computer technology, university curriculum has followed the trends by offering courses which reflect the needs of the design industries. Perhaps a degree which used to recommend classes such as print technique, typesetting, and typography has introduced courses such as animation, web design, and now even digital three-dimensional design to appeal to the job markets. These are all of the perks of an education obtained from a physical university, but some students are choosing an alternative route by going to the internet to learn. In the past few years, a slew of online universities have popped up offering an education to incoming students searching for an affordable, yet acceptable, means of being preparing for the design world’s demands of a degree and experience. As a student who attended a physical university, I could not imagine omitting the hands-on skills taught to me by my instructors. The advice, peer collaboration, and bits of fine art forced upon me were the struggles that forged me into the well rounded professional I am today. It seems that every time I’m stuck, I think back and find some application of the thought process and skills which most would not consider necessary to design a product package, website, or branding concept. The will to design coincides with the ability to spark the thought process with inspiration and past experiences, hence the struggle of an artist.
As the world becomes technical intertwined with digital communications, the design realm is following along. Collaboration is easier that it has ever been before. The communication process has moved from merely voice over telephone and/or in-house teamwork to include widespread collaboration via the World Wide Web using email, chat software, and teleconferencing. And the web connectivity does not stop there. There are many software solutions provided by online freelance services such as ODesk (http://www.odesk.com) and Guru (http://www.guru.com) which allow a group of individuals to team up by utilizing sophisticated yet user-friendly desktop management applications online. Anyone can join websites like these, so it is likely that you could be receiving work from clients anywhere around the globe. These web entities have influenced the graphic design business in both a positive and a negative way. Outsourcing has become less difficult for companies. Graphic designers seeking jobs outside of local areas can now log onto the internet and find employment, but the compensation often suffers at the same time do to competition. The employers who hire online have the choice of choosing the most qualified designer but most likely at the lowest rates.
With the introduction of the internet, to the graphic design field has become a stagnant pool of plagiarism and copyright infringement. Amateurs looking for quick designs such as clip art have found it easy to snag an image directly from the Google image search engine and paste it into their own project without regard to the laws that are in place to prevent such crimes. One such example of this involves Portland High School in Portland, Michigan, and Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Both schools seem to be using the exact same logo design of a cardinal; however, Portland High is calling the design a “raider bird” named after their school mascot. Tony Proudfoot, associate vice president for marketing and communications, claims that Portland is infringing on the Ball State trademark, and the university wants the high school to “cease and desist” using the logo. The school is merely 602 students compared to the whopping university student count, but the point is that it is quite easy to step on toes when using the internet as a source for design. According to Ball State Daily News, the “Cardinal bird” has been a registered trademark of Ball State since 1989 when alumnus William Villarreal won a nationwide contest to design the image. Portland High School later adopted the logo around the same time from a company who said it was free from trademark. Before the introduction of the internet is more likely that such an issue would have never come to light since searching the words “cardinal logo” within a search engine have become so effortless.
Through ample research and dedicated work experience within the graphic design industry, I’ve concluded that the world of design has shifted drastically in recent years. The process of design has transformed because of computer software and the extinction of industries which artists used to rely on for the full production of print design. Communication has become so simple that graphics designers can now work with nearly anyone in the world to help run a graphic design business. Outsourcing has become prominent with the use of the internet as a catalyst for work transfer. Websites provide collaborative networking, and email puts delivery of the designs only seconds for client approval. The ability to post and share work publicly with the world has also posed a risk of creative stagnation, but once a designer can work through all of the differences between now and ten to twenty years ago, I think one will see that the aspirations of a graphic designer have not changed.
You may also want to check out this Technology vs Design interview if you found this article helpful.