Brave New World
The other day I got to thinking about all the different things I've had to learn about this business over the years and how much more there is still to learn.
One thing that is clear to me is that the business has changed - a lot. Actually it's evolved. And it's still evolving.
Here are some of the skills that a designer and art director of the 70's and 80's had to know:
- Drawing, of course, including figure drawing
- Visualising with markers and layout pad, including ticking in type to look like the font of your choice
- Design knowledge and history
- Ideas - how to psyche out the mind numbing white page - no change there then
- Project management, art direction presentation skills, strategy, tactics - again no change
- Concept, copywriting - how to craft a headline and even sometimes write the grey stuff - and again; reassuring to know some skill have stood the test of time.
- Typesetting methods including headline setting, Berthold, Compugraphic…
- Typography, character counting, casting off
- Keyline and paste up - how to create a sharp corner with Rotring pen and scalpel on CS10 board
- Colour mark-ups, Repro techniques, Proofing types, Cromalin, Wet proofs…
About 1990 it all changed.
We had to learn how to drive a Mac. We also had to realise that they were actually not bad at their job.
I recall asking one of the chaps at GBM how to do colour separation and his stunning answer "Just do it in colour!"
Just do it in colour - Mindblowing! After years of rubilith and colour mark ups and specifying tint values. All of sudden we were free to explore.
On the downside though your support network had gone. Repro houses couldn't deal with these new-fangled files, typesetting houses were almost obsolete and had to convert into bureaux. We had to do it all ourselves and at the same time learn all these new skills. We had to learn about colour profiles and gamut, postscript, Rasterised image processors (RIPs), bandwidth, you know the score. And all that in a world before the internet. No googling for info in the early 90's.
All the time technology and suppliers were catching up. Colour printers and scanners were really expensive, Canon took far too long to invent a RIP for their colour copiers and drives and RAM were totally inadequate.
Still - it was the way forward. Eventually everything fell in to place and we all settled in to the new creative environment. Job done!
Or was it?
Again, everything changes. The internet came along and the tools we had had to adapt to slowly became the medium of delivery too. Everybody now had a window to the world on their desk, and print, the reason behind the evolution, had serious competition.
And that's not all.
That window on the world is a two-way window. Today's environment is changing again to an opt-in culture - you can't just sell sell sell any more. And that means new skills and opportunities.
Clients have to be careful. Brands are becoming more transparent; customers can see through them to the products and companies beneath. In the end this can only benefit us all. As consumers we have the power of life or death over a brand and companies have to be on their best behaviour at all times.
For us designers we can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing we will never again be asked to cover up a brand's shortcomings.
It's a Brave New World. For clients, for customers and for today's designers. As the pioneers of this new frontier we have a duty to make sure we can lead the way with open eyes and a confident heart.Share on LinkedIn Tweet