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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.

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