What Graphic Designers need to understand

the_it

After reading the less than compelling outline about why members of the AIGA should remain members by their national president Richard Grefé titled How Is AIGA Helping Designers Survive the Recession? I wondered if graphic designers will ever get where things have been for a while and where they’re headed. Creativity and marketing the power of design (and thinking a star system is really going to make everything better) is a nice model for the nineties when every other article in business magazines were emphasizing design. Typically that press was about industrial design, but any mention of design helps everyone. Possibly the more eye rolling points with the AIGA outline is that people should still go to events (d’uh) and that people should stay strong. Sigh. Another point was about upgrading a designer’s skill set – it’s something I think about a lot myself. But if you don’t know what you’re doing with the tech. you’re not in any better of a place.

This brings me to a great post from Russell Davies that ties the core concept of anything that someone puts out on the net. If you understand this one thing, see it almost as a philosophy it will help you figure out where you need to improve in your tech. skill set. It will probably help how you see information too and put your work into context with how people will be using it. In the last paragraph of analogue natives Davies writes “So much joyful digital stuff is only a pleasure because it’s hugely convenient; quick, free, indoors, no heavy lifting. That’s enabled lovely little thoughts to get out there. But as ‘digital natives’ get more interested in the real world; embedding in it, augmenting it, connecting it, weaponising it, arduinoing it, printing it out, then those thoughts/things need to get better.” If what you’re working on doesn’t fit nicely into any of those points about “it”, you’re going to find yourself in a world of hurt. You’re choking the project in a way that it doesn’t have a chance to see its full potential.

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  • http://serialconsign.com Greg J. Smith

    I also think you could file this advice under “What architects need to understand” as well.

  • DLipe

    I think that some understanding is in order here.

    Since the term Graphic Design was coined, the profession and it's artifacts have been embeded, augmented, connected, and even weaponized – in short Design has been engaged in all facets of modern life, whether you are discussing architecture, industrial design, editorial design… the list goes on and on.

    But I digress. The point is “how is the AIGA going to help designers survive a recession?”.

    First of all, the Star System of the 90's is in fact a network of thousands of designers, from people you read about in publications to students learning the craft. Often it happens that the “Star Designers” have a lot of industry/professional knowledge to impart – years of wisdom and experience from how to handle clients to make the most of a tight budget. In any economic downturn, being able to tack and adjust your business may very be critical to it's survival, and the AIGA in composed of hundreds of members who have tacked and adjusted through many economic hardships. Who better to get advice from than someone who has experience surviving recession? The AIGA provides a forum for people to dialogue about design. It gives people like you and me a forum to become engaged with seasoned veterans, some of whom we've all read about in top industry publications, and to learn something.

    I believe that what Mr. Grefé is saying is that if there was ever a time to be involved in your profession, this it it, and that the AIGA is a great way to be involved on a National scale. Instead of freaking out because your client HAS to pay your invoice a little late, take the time to learn something new from fellow designers, spend a few moments sharpening your typography skills, or take a hard look at your business and make some adjustments to make it better. Take a hard look at your profession and learn something about it and how you can become engaged. Then engage. After all, the profession is comprised of far more than Star Designers, digital media, and tech.

  • litherland

    The AIGA provides a forum for people to dialogue about design. It gives people like you and me a forum to become engaged with seasoned veterans, some of whom we've all read about in top industry publications, and to learn something.

    So does the Internet.

    As for the star system, I doubt that Michael is casting aspersions on designers who have more than proven their mettle. I think what is in question here is the impulse to glamorize graphic design in an effort to get “the public” to “take it seriously”. Being a graphic designer because one wants to get noticed, or be famous, is a bad reason to design because it serves the designer rather than the work. Design is a service profession.

    As long as I get paid enough to keep body and soul together, I don't care whether or not other people understand what I do.

    Okay, off to go weaponize some stuff.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    DLipe – there's a couple specific points that I want to reply to: “Often it happens that the “Star Designers” have a lot of industry/professional knowledge to impart – years of wisdom and experience from how to handle clients to make the most of a tight budget.”

    Very true, but there's a couple things that make the current economic situation different from past dips that I don't think most graphic designers (famous or not) are not likely to be able to offer any advice on. I'm going to generalize but if you're an older graphic designer that barely made the leap to computers, you're probably set in your ways. Back in the day when there was fear that desktop publishers taking over the world people tried to draw a line about what they were and were not about as a profession. I think there's a similar discussion today but it has to do w/ being a graphic designer or an artist, but I digress. While a lot of the recession can be attributed to the housing crisis w/ bad loans, I think there's a parallel downturn due to technical efficiency's that graphic designers have been purposely ignoring. The easy response is that the web sucks, things look ugly, there's too many constraints etc. In the meantime when new positions that would traditionally go to graphic designers are now being offered to developers that have zero typography understanding and make desktop publishers (back in the day) seem like skilled artisans. Where's the publishing industry today for both magazines and books? A ton of magazines have folded and publishers are freezing new book orders. Again part of that has to do with a cash crunch but it's also b/c the old people ignored the coming technology b/c it didn't fit into how publishers saw their business going. Now that rich history is toast. When the economy comes back those graphic design jobs are not coming back. So for me to listen to the so called advice of some of those that have been suspicious of technology today with their years of wisdom and experience doesn't mean as much.

    Until graphic designer's become active participants and not play a defensive attitude of dealing with tight budgets and hoping for the best, we're in for a big surprise. At this point I don't hold much confidence that those graphic designers that have been given the red carpet to be able to pass on any better information then those that have not been focusing on design awards. I doubt too many people that follow the design circuit had herd of Chad Hurley before he helped create YouTube and selling it to Google. Yet if you were to ask a majority of graphic designers who they're interested in, they're more likely wanting to hear about the artist as graphic designer that has won a lot of awards but is unlikely able to offer much real practical career advice. Wouldn't you want to hear how Chad did what he did as a designer? I don't think I've come across one mainstream graphic design publication even mention his name. Every graphic designer isn't going to sell something to google either but it's a poor attitude that is chocking the graphic design industry.

    You also mention “take the time to learn something new from fellow designers, spend a few moments sharpening your typography skills, or take a hard look at your business and make some adjustments to make it better.”

    I think until there's a fundamental attitude shift that things aren't going to be as they were, graphic designers are not going to be able to keep up. It's taken until now when there is no print industry left to question what graphic designers should be doing. I feel as though things have been in a passive state for too long b/c we've been drawn to those famous designers for some of the same reasons above. I think I'm going to start going circular with my argument soon, but if there's one point to make it's this. Graphic design as we know it is in a stage that most traditional graphic designers are not ready for, and the passive attitude towards online has pretty much put a wall around themselves that they might not be able to climb over. “Making it better” while nice in theory is not going to make people realize that they need a graphic designer, the fact that a business person can't put something on the web is what will drive the industry, in part for the same reasons graphic designers did so well b/c business people didn't understand the printing process back in the day.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    I'm posting this to Coudal but figured it would relevant to this conversation as well:

    Three posts that I think should be required reading if you're looking for some context about the death of print (or how information is flowing today, and it's not from paper) 1. The Newspaper Industry and the Arrival of the Glaciers, 2. Content and Its Discontents, and 3. Change happens

  • DLipe

    When was graphic design not in a place where technology was changing?

    The unfortunate part of the whole story is that so many graphic designers don't know anything but the technology, so there is a perception that graphic design and technology are synonymous; they aren't. That is where the attitude shift needs to take place.