The impact of access to design software and do-it-yourself applications has had a negative effect on the graphic design industry. I savored the first line of Unit 2, Do-it-yourself Design, from SCAD’s M.F.A. course Integrated Design Media, “How can a professional distinguish him- or herself from an amateur designer?” (Do-It-Yourself Design) I do agree that digital techniques have further blurred the lines between the professional and amateur in the graphic design industry. Although Google isn’t the exact analysis tool for hardcore data, a quick Google search results for the keywords ‘amateur graphic design’ produces about 10,100,000 results (0.25 seconds) with at least the top ten being amateur graphic designer self-help tips. There is a tremendous demand of amateur graphic designers seeking broadened knowledge in their field—and that’s a good thing.
However there still is a negative impact in the graphic design industry due to the access to design software. A great example of this negative impact is in typography. Typography availability to amateur and professional designers is at its highest numbers ever. There are logos and letter marks by the thousands, business cards and letterheads most likely by the millions if not trillions. What we see more and more are, what I would like to call, hurried solutions to design problems. A designer needs a new logo or some type for a poster, which their client has requested. After a quick hurried glimpse of the designer’s typography choices on their local computer they pick the best fit and call it creative. New technologies, particularly those related to visual communication, have always had an impact on design representation and the design process (Hanna and Barber). In today’s world of want it yesterday and wanting it cheap causes the reaction to just get it done—and get the money.
“Resist the easy grooves they guide you into. If you love a medium made of software, there’s a danger that you will become entrapped in someone else’s recent careless thoughts.” (Lanier) I can recall one of my first big assignments when I landed—what I thought at the time—my dream job. Because of my past experience as a hockey player I was assigned as lead designer to athletics publications at the University where I had just begun working as a Junior Graphic Designer. I was ecstatic! Well that was until I was directed to continue to design the covers in the same fashion in which they’ve been designed for the previous years. Sure, that doesn’t sound all that horrible. However, the covers had an athlete on the cover that was masked out to silhouette the same background beneath with the PhotoShop brush stroke, crosshatch, applied. Everyone loved that look and they had been using it for years. I was no only appalled that I was denied creative input but also that I was to just use an amateur technique. An out-of-the-box PhotoShop technique that any professional can tell if they’re blindfolded! Lanier expresses this matter in a novel light, “As long as you are not defined by software, you are helping to broaden the identity of the ideas…” (Lanier). I cannot say that I felt as if I was broadening the idea to any extent.
“If you feel fine using the tools you use, who am I to tell you that there is something wrong with what you are doing?” (Lanier) Here is where I disagree with Lanier. I feel strongly that as professionals we need to pass the legacy to upcoming designers with grace and dignity. New designers need to understand the great losses in defaulting to the typical list of typography availability. I think it is fine to use software as a process in presenting ideas. Software tools can help designers to organize their thoughts and feelings, clarify the priorities and relationships in a project, and give the creative subconscious a helping hand (Jong). But one needs to know their direction before trying to find organization with in it. There needs to be a breaking point for amateur designers to remove themselves from the software crutch. With any new media, especially computer technology, it is tempting to assume that designers will be motivated to learn a technique as a result of its novelty [but] all too often, this is only temporary (Bryant).
Let us hope that Courtney Bryant is on to something and that it is only temporary. I do still feel that the technology and the software have a negative impact in the graphic design industry. Nonetheless, we gain an advantage in using software and technology to continue providing quality, cutting edge, and proficient results to often complex problems. Bit we need to rely on brainstorming and creative thinking. The power of a successful solution is in the concept and how it is delivered in symbolic form, which could be through graphic design. It will be thereafter the persona of the graphic designer will become esteemed for their philosophy and sophisticated thinking and not the lack of.