• Mb_2
Graphic Design

Why graphic design?

Guest posted by Michael Bojkowski,

In the third installment of our weekly discussion, Michael Bojkowski questions, Why Graphic Design?

Over the last 5 to 10 years technology has bought us to a stage where we are rapidly disconnecting with previously established ‘died in the wool’ ways of doing things and entering a realm where new ideas, ideals and formats proliferate and nothing replaces anything. You simply get more. Everything is fracturing all over the place — in politics, entertainment, the media… even in the creative industries. Particularly in Graphic Design.

Graphic Design might seem like a relatively young industry compared to say, banking or carpentry or whatever but it’s also become heavily reliant on technology and technology changes so rapidly these days that were all constantly having to play catch up. Sure, there’s a massive dollop of craft involved but it was only a decade and a half ago that us designers were first discovering the Apple Mac and what it was capable of and now you look around and it seems frightfully easy for anyone to pick up a computer and start designing things for themselves. In many aspects, talent has become subservient to technology.

On the plus side this has freed up designers to expand upon their individual areas of interest.

Rick Poynor recently visited Melbourne to deliver a presentation on the subject of ‘Design Thinking’ and the need for designers to reconnect with an audience beyond ‘the client’. In many ways this fractured landscape offers opportunities for creatives to do this more effectively than ever before. This could mean that Graphic Design will need to become a part of the thing and not the thing itself.

In his book ‘Graphic Design: A User’s Manual’, Adrian Shaughnessy mentions that designers wear many hats from account handlers to debt collectors and more. Add to this curators, event organisers, illustrators, photographers, archivists, art directors, media commentators… The list now seems to go on and on and on. Look at creative agencies such as YCN or young creatives such as Kate Moross and our humble hosts It’s Nice That. They may be able to produce Graphic Design of an appropriately high calibre but that’s only really one segment of their kit of parts.

In a world growing steadily more interested in marketing, branding, crowdsourcing, ‘design thinking’, cheap typography and D.I.Y. solutions, many creatives are finding/will find themselves morphing to new, multi-faceted roles. The role of Graphic Design may loose some prominence. Graphic Design may become more of a ‘boutique service’ offered to select clients rather than the all encompassing visual glue it how been touted as for decades. One thing is for sure, it ain’t disappearing anytime soon though we might have to start question exactly what our relationship to Graphic Design is really about.

Well that’s my attempt at looking into the crystal ball. I dunno. Have I just spouted a pile of rubbish? What do you reckon the future holds for Graphic Design?

Michael Bojkowski is a designer and design commentator with a particular interest in editorial design. He has worked with clients as diverse as YCN, The Future Laboratory and Nick Bell Design. Michael also maintains the Linefeed blog (formerly known as Boicozine), runs his own experimental publishing venture known as Press Publish and currently writes for both Grafik and Gym Class magazines. Currently on sabbatical in Melbourne, Australia, he hopes to return to the U.K. sometime next year. www.okinterrupt.net

Comments

12942303789146578 pberrecloth on Mon Oct 5th 2009

The definition of the designer is becoming blurred. The accessibility of technology now means that anyone with a computer and the correct software can become a designer. This has both negative and positive effects: On one hand, poorly-considered, non-disciplined design is now being allowed to flow through into the public consciousness. On the other hand, we are seeing new, forward thinking, unrestricted creative thinking from those who are not restrained by traditional formalities.

It is my belief that craft allows technology to be exploited effectively. Therefore, the continuation of taught craft in our academic institutions is essential to sustaining graphic design as a profession.

I am a graphic design student at Central Saint Martins and this is something which I am very passionate about - so much so that I have chosen to write my dissertation on it.

12942303796698568 btpstudio on Mon Oct 5th 2009

the true profession of GD will continue to be valued by a few, and an even smaller paying few, but, as always judged by all. I personally love it, live it and breath it :)
As you do, strongly believe it will continue to evolve and grow (with technology). The art-form of GD will always remain independent from branding, art direction, crowdsourcing, strategy and so on. Though it is often bundled with these by the multi-faceted designers/studios you mention in your article--of which I confess, I am... yep that's right. Balancing making a living with living, running a studio, and desperately trying to staying creative from client to client. It just aint easy, but loads of fun. Thanks for the midnight read. Catch you soon

1294230380379019 culturesinbetw on Mon Oct 5th 2009

Throughout my time this year and taking the time to breathe in how I've wanted to approach my own projects, I realise that this definition of Graphic Design cannot be so simplified to mean an approach to offering a service or a design solution with a relatively straight-forward outcome. Is Graphic Design purely just about its sum of parts containing imagery, photography, text and typography? We are still reading how great and grandeur the past of the legacy of Graphic Design is great. But I believe it should be savoir faire then being so nostalgic. I'm interested in the now, the daily life we live in now and what we can do. I also realise that why should we keep discussing this essential design area as a facet of its own. In some ways, peering through it makes it look like a ingenue and not as sophisticated as Industrial or Product Design. I think Graphic Design can be more relevant today, making it apart of my life as with everyone else but seeing it in a global context and that it can have and sustain a working relationship with other areas of design and non-design. Contemporary Fashion is made me see Graphic Design with purpose and has informed me much more.

12942303811614847 andrefelipe72 on Mon Oct 5th 2009

Have you guys ever noticed that there is no more the figure of the "great graphic designer"? And that, at the same time, graphic design is everywhere? I think that graphic design in turning into something like a commodity. So, to claim back the position of the individual graphic designer would be just the same to claim back the position of, say, the "oil driller" or the "commercial jet pilot" individuals - even considering their important roles in the society. We're not specials anymore - we've become an ordinary gear in the economy machine, where theorethical idealisms are worthless and vain. So, you guys would better stop complaining, getting to work, doing your jobs, making it worthy. And joining - and enjoying - the real struggle of the free economy.

1294230382169003 chads_eye_view on Mon Oct 5th 2009

At the end of the day, computers don't replace the need for a good idea.

1294230382839392 eblairs on Tue Oct 6th 2009

@chads_eye_view That assumes the client WANTS a good idea. Many of them don't.

12942303836446574 AShakur on Tue Oct 6th 2009

One must always remember Milton Glaser's quote when designing: "Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking. "

12942303843378139 timk_ok on Thu Oct 8th 2009

What is interesting is how specific our roles have become overtime. It wasn't so long ago that designers like Vignelli designed absolutely everything. His opinion was similar to his architect contemporaries who believed they should design everything "from the Spoon to the city". We've since become a lot more concerned about specialising. I think this is partly to do with how complicated our briefs are and how elaborate the implementation process is (I thinking about digital in particular which happens to be my 'specialisation').

And yes, I think it's a lot easier to masquerade as a designer these days with all the tools that are now available to us. Ultimate I believe that good ideas (and intelligent execution) will ultimately be worth more than anything else but it's not for every client. Plenty of clients won't be able to recognize the difference but that's o.k.. I think it's up to us to push ourselves to create more unique and successful work and create our own demand.

Thanks for your article Boji.

12942303852214694 bojkowski on Thu Oct 8th 2009

Hey @pberrecloth, how important do you think it is to be called a 'graphic designer' these days? Are you getting the feeling that fellow students are less interested in being tagged with the one title or that they are slightly bored with the idea of becoming simply a 'designer'?

12942303860675514 bojkowski on Thu Oct 8th 2009

@andrefelipe72 I think I agree that being a 'graphic designer' isn't so special anymore. It's having creative talent and knowing how to let it proliferate that will set designers (whatever) apart.

12942303868073745 bojkowski on Thu Oct 8th 2009

Hey @timk_ok. How goes it? More specific and more fluid at the same time. I mentioned YCN, Ms Moross and ItsNiceThat (BTW congrats on the bursary award ItsNiceThat!) cause they seem to manage to effortlessly juggle a variety of creative roles at the one time. So I reckon the idea that design can be universally useful hasn't died, it's just that the term 'graphic design' has shrunk in comparison to the various endeavours emerging creatives are taking on these days.

Posted by Michael Bojkowski

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. Quimmarin-posters-int-list

    Barcelona-based designer and art director Quim Marin has a strong visual sensibility and a prolific work-rate if scrolling through his site is anything to go by. There’s a load of impressive poster and other print design on there, with particularly effective use of some trendy tropes which can often feel stale in less talented hands. “In such a visually polluted environment I try to come up with fresh and memorable designs with a clear aim at essential beauty and equilibrium that, at the same time, will ensure communicative effectiveness,“ Quim says by way of a mission statement, and it’s hard to sum up his work better than that.

  2. Chevalvert-int-list-2

    You wade into Chevalvert’s portfolio rubbing your hands across your eyes, unsure of what you’ve stumbled across. The Paris-based studio was founded in 2007 by Patrick Paleta and Stéphane Buellet and describes itself as being based on an “open, multidisciplinary approach,” which might go some way to explaining why it feels like a cave laden with treasures. So many treasures.

  3. Fantastic-man-list

    Fantastic Man magazine has been redesigned, as shown in its teaser image of its tenth anniversary issue. The magazine’s new issue cover star JW Anderson has shown the new cover on Instagram, which reveals a new design seeing the masthead run vertically and horizontally, instead of its previous preluder horizontal configuration. The cover image also runs to both sides, moving away from its previous white-edged format. We’re excited to see what changes might have been made to the inside of the mag…

  4. Dwp-bikestock-int-list

    This morning I had a puncture that I couldn’t fix and had to get the train to work, so it feels timely to be writing about Bikestock, a range of vending machines full of cycling essentials that can be found all over New York and Boston. The concept is a simple one; inner tubes, spanners, tyre levers tyres and any number of other little bits and pieces that make your wheels turn smoothly are boshed into a vending machine so you can grab them on the go and, more importantly, at any time of day!

  5. List

    Joost Bos is a recent graduate from the Academie Minerva Groningen in The Netherlands where he’s spent three years studying for his bachelor’s degree. Like many of his Dutch counterparts he’s a dab hand with typography both traditional and experimental and has a plethora of printed pieces in his portfolio. This one, Sequence 1, is an exhibition catalogue for a show of artist books at Joost’s alma mater, which perfectly demonstrates his design sensibilities. Immaculately set type is interspersed with hand-drawn elements and bright colours bring intrigue to an otherwise monochrome publication. Like what you’re seeing? He’s available for freelance work right now!

  6. Sam-coldy-penguin-int-list

    Is it just me or is Penguin killing it at the moment? The publishing house only recently celebrated its 80th birthday by launching a range of its classic titles for 80p each, accompanied by a slick website and a poster campaign which has reached even the furthest corners of London’s transport system. And right now, they’re in the midst of a new campaign called On the Page which celebrates women authors and characters in literary masterpieces.

  7. Karansingh-mop-int-list

    The glorious coming together of pattern, shape and colour makes for a joyous experience and that’s why print designers are held in such high regard. Last week we commissioned Animade to turn three eye-poppingly good Pucci x Orlebar Brown patterns into trippy GIFs, this week we’re turning our attention to profiling creatives we believe are among the best around when it comes to working in this area. We are proud to present these #mastersofprint.

  8. Gerard-marin-int-list

    There’s something of a trend going around at the moment for identities using 3D logo-marks, and with this one by Gerard Marin we can see why. Barcelona-based designer Gerard developed the branding, stationery and corporate materials for interior designer and visual merchandiser Neus Ortiz. Recognisability and malleability were at the forefront of his mind for this project, and the flexible “N,” which changes according to its application, prove a neat solution to both. His is an unfussy aesthetic which lends itself perfectly to branding projects – here’s hoping more make their way to him very soon.

  9. Nike-logo

    There’s a moment in this film where Michael Bierut comes over all Hayley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense as he declares: “ I can see things in typefaces that normal people can’t.” It’s part of his discussion about how “design can be a lonely thing” and that as you immerse yourself in that world “you’re actually making yourself less normal than regular people.” Filmed at Design Indaba in South Africa last month, this interesting short film moves onto to look at logos and why designers are so interested in them. Using famous examples like the Nike swoosh and the Target, um, target, Michael explains his theory that we’re drawn to them because they’re primitive and yet we invest them with so much meaning. “A lot of what we see when we’re looking at the logo isn’t really happening in the logo; it happens in our own mind,” he explains.

  10. Emilyoberman-snl-int-hero

    One of the undoubted highlights of this year’s Design Indaba conference in Cape Town was hearing Pentagram partner Emily Oberman detail her long-running work on Saturday Night Live. Emily has worked with the programme for 20 years, creating three separate versions of its identity, various title sequences and even spoof adverts to run in the breaks (like this). Now Emily has teamed up with writer Alison Castle to produce Saturday Night Live: The Book, a 500-page paean to the show which coincides with its 40th anniversary this autumn.

  11. Studio-lin-stampa-int-list

    Sometimes a dead simple idea is all you need to create something really striking. In the case of Studio Lin’s branding of Stampa that simple idea was a rolled up poster. Stampa specialise in limited edition prints produced by some of the best illustrators around – shipped direct to your door. How do they do this? By rolling them up in a poster tube. So what does their logo look like? A pair of rolled-up prints joined at their edges to form an S. Studio Lin also commissioned an entire custom typeface for the brand, but for me it’s that swirling blue S that hits the nail on the head every time. Simple!

  12. Ines-cox-int-list

    Scrolling through what feels like an endless array of projects, it’s difficult to believe that Ines Cox only founded her studio last year. Since parting ways with former partner Lauren Grusenmeyer, co-founder of five-year endeavour Cox & Grusenmeyer, Ines has branched out on her own to establish an eponymous practice based in Antwerp. While she still includes much of her old work with Lauren in her portfolio, her new work demonstrates an exciting and playful approach to typography and innovative poster design.

  13. Dot-dash-flatpack-int-list

    Film festivals and great graphic design go together like Powell and Pressburger; as proven by the identity for Iceland’s Stockfish Film Festival, and Dot Dash’s designs for Flatpack Film Festival in Birmingham.